FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

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Simply put, a voice for music… Lalah Hathaway captivates our ears and hearts - an embodiment of skill, spirit and sonic splendour. With Grammy® wins for Best R&B and Traditional R&B Performances in 2014 and 2015 respectively, plus a 2016 Grammy® nomination for her own rendition of "Little Ghetto Boy," Lalah’s preservation of the Hathaway legacy is captured in new release Lalah Hathaway Live. Experience this true virtuoso’s unique presence, never mistaken nor forgotten.

Los Angeles-born V. Bozeman first sang in church at four, immediately realizing her purpose. Briefly fronting a girl-group as part of Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds’ Soda Pop label, she also worked with CeeLo Green and Timothy Bloom on “’Till The End Of Time.” Last year she reprised her role on "Empire" and toured with the Love 'n Soul Experience. She is signed to Mosley Music/Epic and is currently putting the final touches on her debut album with Timbaland.

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Pioneers of the London Acid Jazz scene, The Brand New Heavies translated their love for the funk grooves of the 1970s into a sophisticated sound that carried the torch for classic soul in an era dominated by Hip-Hop. After scoring at home with "Dream Come True" and "Stay This Way," the single "Never Stop" soon landed on the American R&B charts, with the Heavies the first British group to accomplish such a feat with a debut single since Soul II Soul several years earlier.

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The Fort Worth, Texas native and Columbia Records singer songwriter and R&B artist, Leon Bridges is currently enjoying a wolf out headline tour. The tour comes on the heels of his Grammy nominated debut album Coming Home, featuring breakout singles "Coming Home", "Better Man” and "River" which he performed on Saturday Night Live.

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With a vintage flair and voice for the ages, Andra Day has perfected the American soul sound and is ready to share it with the world. In stores now, her Grammy-nominated debut album Cheers To The Fall is "a biography in the form of soul music," a candid 13-song tale about truth, fearlessness, vulnerability, forgiveness and love. Her alluring, powerful alto, which shines in the album’s crown jewel “Rise Up,” has touched a nerve and has inspired comparisons to Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Etta James, Amy Winehouse and Adele. 

Singer, songwriter, and producer, Mali recognized music's impact at a young age, playing the keys at church at 11 years old. His two independently released albums The Coming in 2008, and The 2econd Coming in 2009, earned him both critical and online acclaim. By 2011, underground R&B's "best kept secret" was out when he appeared on BET’s "Music Matters" series and released his first major album, Grammy-nominated Mali Is…, featuring “Beautiful” in 2014.

Poet, musician, activist and artist, Cyril began his career beside his siblings, turning pro at age 19. He’s the voice of the Grammy Award-winning Neville Brothers and The Meters, known for smash hits, "Cissy Strut," "Cabbage Alley" and "Fire" on the Bayou. Today, he tours over 30 countries each year with all-star band, Royal Southern Brotherhood, and his dedication to New Orleans musicians who paved the way for him shines through every performance.

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The award-winning North London hip hop artist, Little Simz self-released her critically acclaimed debut album, A CURIOUS TALE OF TRIALS + PERSONS, which was named one of the Best Albums Of 2015 by Vogue, Entertainment Weekly and more, and became the first UK rapper to feature on Forbes Magazine's "30 Under 30" and "Hip Hop Cash Princes" lists. She just kicked off A CURIOUS TALE OF TRIALS + PERSONS: THE TOUR, bringing the entire album to life around the globe.

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11-time GRAMMY® Award winner, Babyface, recalls the magic of his career in Return of the Tender Lover (Def Jam, 12/4/2015). Featuring eight new original songs, Babyface’s first solo album in seven years is a nod to RIAA triple-platinum, Tender Lover. The music man counts more than 125 top 10 R&B and pop hits, 42 R&B No. 1’s and 51 top 10 pop hits (including 16 No. 1’s).

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Writing her first song at age 4, Judith still pens and performs her own material, plus she’s backed artists like Stevie Wonder and the late Michael Jackson. She appeared in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, a behind-the-scenes look at acclaimed background singers, she earned a Grammy Award for “Best Music Film” for her participation. Her debut album, “Back In Time,” produced by herself and Prince is out now.

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Daley is a British artist/singer-songwriter from Manchester, UK. After a year studio-bound, Daley returns with long-awaited new music in the form of "Until The Pain Is Gone" featuring Neo-soul royalty Jill Scott. Discovered in London, Daley's debut album Days & Nights was released in February 2014 featuring the new-classic "Alone Together" with Marsha Ambrosius and Top 10 R&B radio single "Look Up” and made way for two sold-out headline tours around the US.

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Embracing polarity while rethinking sounds and visuals to create something new and unique, LION BABE is a New York duo featuring singer/songwriter/performance artist Jillian Hervey and instrumentalist/producer Lucas Goodman. Their eclectic mix of sonic and stunning visuals mirrors the rich melting pot of NYC cultures. Their debut album, with tracks "Jump Hi" and "Treat Me Like Fire," will be released January 2016 on Polydor/Interscope.

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He’s an eleven-time Grammy nominee, a New York Times Best Selling Author for his memoir “I Am Charlie Wilson,” a BET Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, and his showmanship is legendary. Charlie Wilson continues to garner monumental respect from his musical peers and fans alike while remaining relevant with current chart topping hits. There are some artists you have to see at least once in your life; Charlie Wilson is one of them.

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In practically record time, Detroit rap maven DeJ Loaf has reminded the hip hop world how an unknown female luminary can still dazzle the genre and set it apart from any other art form. Her alluring composure was first on display with her breakout cautionary taunt, “Try Me,” (soaring to #1 at Urban Radio and snagging gold status), and the more recent, sultry follow-up from her "AndSeeThatsTheThing" EP , “Hey There,” which lustily threads the ever-prominent Future into her seductive snare.   

MC Lyte is a lyricist, inspirational speaker, DJ, veteran emcee, and entrepreneur.  She is one of the most well-respected female artists in Hip Hop since the start of her career in the late 1980s. Today, she serves as the first black female President of the Los Angeles chapter of the Grammy Recording Academy. Originally from Brooklyn, NY, the east coast native currently resides in Los Angeles, CA, helping to mold the next generation of female voices as the CEO of Sunni Gyrl, Inc. and Hip Hop Sisters Foundation.

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Ciara's self-titled album was released on July 5, 2013 and debuted at #2 on the Billboard Top 200. The album features the #1 gold single "Body Party," which sold over 500,000 copies. Critics at The New York Times, LA Times, Pitchfork, and The Guardian, gave the album positive reviews and high remarks. In addition, Ciara has turned into a fashion industry regular with her bold taste and flawless beauty, as well as a budding actress. Ciara is currently working on her sixth studio album to be released later this year. Ciara's decade long career launched with the release of her debut album Goodies in 2004, which was certified multi-platinum by the RIAA and sold over 4 million copies. Since then, Ciara has continued to grow as a chart topping singer/songwriter/producer, with four of her albums debuting in the Top 5 of Billboard Top 200. She was once named Billboard's "Woman of the Year" and has won numerous awards including a GRAMMY, various MTV VMAs, BETs Awards and Soul Train Awards.

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With her 1998 double-platinum debut, Soul of a Woman, featuring the record-breaking single, “Friend of Mine” 8x Grammy nominee Kelly Price made history by taking the #1 spot on Billboard’s singles chart without a video. An accomplished writer and producer Price has collaborated with Mariah Carey, George Michael, Elton John, The Isley Brothers, Brian McKnight, R. Kelly, Sean “Diddy Combs, Faith Evans, Whitney Houston, Donnie McClurkin, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, James Brown and many others.

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Digable Planets, the alternative hip-hop trio comprised of Mary Ann “Ladybug Mecca” Vieira, Craig “Doodlebug” Irving, and Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler have finally reunited! The group’s debut album Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space) was released in 1993 under Pendulum Records. The album's lead single, "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" became a crossover hit winning a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. The group’s second album, Blowout Comb, came out in late 1994. Both albums have proven to be modest hip-hop classics. Digable’s music is one of the guaranteed sounds in hip-hop to “put on and enjoy and vibe out to, with a rich undercurrent of history and thought.” A proper reunion for Digable Planets has been a long time coming and fans are ready.

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New Breed Brass Band lives and breathes the culture of New Orleans, infusing funk, rock, jazz, and hip-hop into a custom-made enhancement of second-line brass band tradition. Since their street debut in 2013 at the Nine Times Second Line, they’ve showcased their originality opening for diverse bands, like The Fray, Red Baraat, Dr. John, The Waterboys and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, and competed in the Red Bull Street Kings brass band competition.

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Faith Renée Evans is a multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning recording artist, songwriter, arranger and record producer. She’s also a New York Times best-selling author, entrepreneur, TV executive producer and most importantly—a mother. Through an equally rewarding and trying career, ask how she’s come this far, she’ll simply reply, “FAITH.” Now in the studio, she’s working on “#Faith20,” celebrating her first album’s 20th Anniversary and “The King & I,” a duet album with BIG.

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The blueprint for modern Boy Bands. New Edition has been mesmerizing audiences for over 30 years with choreographed shows, smooth harmonies and electrifying showmanship cementing their place in history as one of the most successful touring groups ever. With 15 national tours, 18 multi-platinum albums, four American Music Awards, 14 number 1 records and countless Billboard Top 20 hits, New Edition remains the unstoppable measurement of true R&B, Hip-Hop and Pop music.

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Raised in Compton, CA, Eric is known in the music industry as a Grammy award-winning, soulful songwriter and solo R&B artist with smooth vocals. Since 2013, he’s co-penned over 80 songs including hits for stars like Usher (“Lemme See”), Justin Bieber (“Right Here”), Selena Gomez (“Intuition”), Chris Brown (“Fine China” and “Love More”) and many more. In 2015, he launched his first national headlining tour selling out several markets across the country. He’s now focusing on his hotly anticipated Eric Bellinger LP set releasing in 2016!

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Founded in 1961, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band derives its name from Preservation Hall, the venerable music venue located in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter. The band travels worldwide fulfilling their mission to nurture and perpetuate the art form of New Orleans Jazz. Many of the bands’ charter members performed with the pioneers who invented jazz in the early twentieth century including Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong. Regardless of whether they are releasing new material or old or performing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Bonnaroo, Electric Forest, Carnegie Hall or for the King of Thailand, Preservation Hall Jazz Band embodies a joyful, timeless spirit that can’t be ignored.

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Chi-town crooner, Jeremih's first single, "Birthday Sex", hit number four on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart with his self-titled debut album soaring to number six. His success continued with All About You, featuring "Down on Me.” And then again with two scorching singles "Don't Tell ‘Em," and “Planes” featuring J. Cole. Plus, last summer he played iconic venues across the continent with the sold out J Cole 2014 Forest Hills Drive Tour.

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A triple treat artist, Skye Wanda is a vocalist, rapper and actor. Her music infuses jazz, gospel, R&B neo-soul and hip hop to create her own distinct style and sound, rounded up with catchy melodies and fresh lyrics. Her debut album, HEARTBOX, set for release in 2016 features the single, “EASY,” available  on iTunes, MTN and Vodacom. Plus, her first music video can be seen on YOUTUBE.

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Persistently shunning genre boundaries, the Robert Glasper Experiment has cut a bold new sonic path with Black Radio and Black Radio 2.  The GRAMMY-winning albums embody an amalgamation of sounds, pouring jazz harmonies over hip-hop rhythms, laced with R&B grooves and melodies. The Experiment’s live show never ceases to change shape and form, always taking new angles on their already distinctive covers and originals alike.

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Mariah Carey is the best-selling female artist of all time with more than 200 million albums sold to date and 18 Billboard Hot 100 #1 singles, more than any solo artist in history. Mariah has been recognized with multiple Grammy Awards, 21 American Music Awards, Billboard's “Artist of the Decade” Award, the World Music Award for “World's Best Selling Female Artist of the Millennium,” and BMI's “Icon Award” for her achievements in songwriting – with her five-octave vocal range, prolific songwriting, and producing talent, Mariah is truly the template of the modern pop performance.

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Platinum-selling artist and producer, Zakes is the Executive Head of A&R at Sony Music Africa. He released the first live House DVD in South Africa, receiving the Best Male Award from METRO Music Awards and Most Gifted Video of the Year Artist by Cannel O Awards. His recent work, The Real Book & Fake Book: My Music Bible, garnered many nominations while his first duet with Nandi Mngoma, “Dance” brings a unity message to Ubuntu. 

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As St. Beauty, melodic Atlanta natives, Alex Belle and Isis, bring honest lyrics dealing with relationships and the freedom to be an individual. Alex Belle’s melodies are honey drenched and haunting as they linger in the minor key to deliver a richness dripping with raw emotion, while Isis’ sophistication is evident in the effortless style and grace exuded from her soothing vocals and impeccable talents on guitar. Together, they create a sound like no other.

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In 1996, Maxwell redefined classic soul music with the critically-acclaimed debut, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite. Fueled by RIAA gold single, "Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)," Grammy-nominated Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite achieved double platinum, followed by Embrya in 1998. BLACKsummers'night debuted at No. 1, winning two Grammys and another platinum award in 2009. To date, he’s achieved 12 gold and platinum certifications from RIAA. Maxwell’s second album in his trilogy, blackSUMMERS'night, will release in 2016.

Beginning his career as a Grammy Award winning rapper, COMMON has become one of the most sought-after actor earning an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, NAACP Award, Independent Spirit Award, and Critic’s Choice Award. He’s also a well-known children’s author and has penned a New York Times Best Selling memoir. In 2000, he launched The Common Ground Foundation, dedicated to the empowerment and development of disadvantaged youth in urban communities. This Summer, he will return to the ESSENCE FEST stage for another feel-good performance.

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The Oakland-born singer/songwriter appeared with the band, Poplyfe, and performed with her idol Stevie Wonder as finalists on "America’s Got Talent," But it was Kehlani’s mixtape, Cloud 19 that introduced her to the world. Then, in 2015 she released, You Should Be Here to rave reviews, it came in at no. 1 on the iTunes R&B/Soul chart and no. 2 on both the Overall R&B Albums and Current R&B Albums chart.  This year, the talented songstress will make her ESSENCE Festival debut.

Los Angeles-based, R&B/soul band fronted by Syd and Matt Martians, The Internet became known for their first two albums, Purple Naked Ladies and Feel Good. Their latest work, Ego Death, is critically acclaimed and Grammy-nominated, appearing on 2015 Best-Of lists: The Fader, Complex, LA Times and more. There’s no stopping this band with performances on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," "Jimmy Kimmel LIVE" and sold out shows!

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Skyrocketing to fame with his first single, “Nobody Else” from his self-titled album Tyrese, he quickly climbed the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Following with his albums 2000 Watts, I Wanna Go There and Open Invitation, Tyrese also toured with Grammy-nominated super-group TGT (Tyrese, Ginuwine and Tank,) whose album Three Kings delivered two hit singles. Just in the last year, he debuted his latest project Black Rose, plus a new book, a new film and more!

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Born Melesha O’Garro, Lady Leshurr started her career at six years old, when she wrote her first lyric. A rapper, singer and producer from Birmingham, England, she has firmly stamped her place a top the throne with her Queen's Speech series of freestyles, the third of which went viral in 2015. And now with her debut album on the way, she also gives back through Lady Leshurr’s Rap College where she dispenses advice and techniques.

Born Trinity Home, Tink grew up with music—her mother, a choir singer and her father, a pianist and guitarist, turned their basement into a home studio. Since 2012, she built herself a name, releasing six mixtapes, including 2014’s Winter's Diary 2: Forever Yours which was featured as a top 10 R&B album in Rolling Stone and Billboard. Her debut album Think Tink is due in 2016 on the Mosley Music Group label.

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Until now, BJ the Chicago Kid, has been one of Chicago’s best kept secrets— having written and performed background vocals for some of the greatest artists of our time. In 2012, BJ independently released his critically-acclaimed debut LP, PINEAPPLE NOW-LATERS, which garnered the attention of his current label home Motown Records. The Grammy-nominated artist recently toured with Big Krit on the “Kritically Acclaimed Tour," and is set to release his album “In My Mind” this year.