Biz Markie brings more than 26 years of solid hip-hop acumen and an overwhelming fan-base that stretches from New York City to Japan to Europe. He has under his belt such mega-events as The Grammy’s After Parties, The Pre-Oscar Party, Will Smith Movie Premiere Events (in the states & overseas), The Essence Festival and events hosted by The Magic Johnson Foundation, and many more. He currently Djs and performs all over the world, consistently booking over 200 shows a year.
DJ Drama delivers musical buffets from the freshest flavors in hip-hop. This Philly native and Atlanta transplant has forever set mixtape standards via his much-imitated Gangsta Grillz series. Formatted like a mixtape, his 2007 debut Gangsta Grillz: The Album featured respected chart toppers including Outkast, T.I. and Pharrell. His site www.dramaliketheDJ.com keeps you up to date with everything that has to do with hip-hop. He keeps the names of megastars like Lil Wayne and T.I. sizzling between albums and continues to jumpstart careers of countless rappers.
From an 8-year-old singing sensation in Kingston, Jamaica to an international reggae and R&B star, Beenie Man (born Moses Davis in 1973) has been one of Jamaica’s most innovative artists since 1981. His career gained momentum after a performance at the Reggae Sunsplash festival in 1992. Starting with his first number one single in Jamaica in 1993, “Matie,” and continuing with his many hit collaborations with artists including Wyclef Jean, Mya and Janet Jackson, Beenie Man is unstoppable! He’s making his ESSENCE Festival debut.
Charlie Wilson has been heralded as an icon and is sought after by today’s chart topping contemporary artists. He has received multiple accolades during his career including nine Grammy nominations, a BET Lifetime Achievement Award and a Trumpet Award.
He has performed his critically acclaimed concerts to sold out audiences both domestically and internationally. His latest album, "Forever Charlie" confirms that his 2015 Essence Festival performance will be bigger and better than ever.
Oscar Nominated, Multi-Grammy and Golden Globe Award Winning Musician, noted Actor, Community Activist COMMON has spent his career pushing boundaries and taking listeners out of their comfort zones. With his continued work in film, COMMON has emerged as one of Hollywood's most sought after leading men. His 10th studio album Nobody’s Smiling was released by Def Jam/Atrium Records on July 22, 2014. In 2007, he launched the Common Ground Foundation, which empowers youth in urban communities. COMMON continues to break new ground, and remains to be one of hip hop’s most innovative, positive voices.
Her groundbreaking 1997 album Baduizm went multi-platinum and won Erykah two Grammys. The Queen of Neo-Soul continues to win awards with her fusion of R&B, hip-hop and jazz, creating her silky style which is as unique as her personal style. Erykah, the actress, has appeared in numerous films. Her non-profit group B.L.I.N.D. (Beautiful Love Incorporated Non-Profit Development) creates social change through cultural, artistic and economic development.
A soulful singer/songwriter plus an artistic poetess equals Floetry, the duo of Marsha Ambrosius and Natalie “The Floacist” Stewart. Floetry formed in England in 1997, starting on the performance poetry stage. Their 2002 debut album, Floetic, produced “Say Yes” and received four Grammy nods. Their "Flo’Ology" album was a hit in both England and the U.S. Although Marsha and Natalie parted ways in 2006 and created solo albums, they have reunited! Floetry is now touring again. Hello, Essence Festival!
India.Arie went from “singing under a tree in the park” to the Grammy Awards stage, earning seven nominations for her 2001 double platinum debut Acoustic Soul featuring her first hit single “Video."
India’s latest 5th and most recent album, "SongVersation", is a compelling snapshot of her breakthrough to personal and artistic growth on the other side of a self- imposed four- year hiatus. "SongVersation" finds India.Arie coming back full circle to the basics that captivated a global legion of fans.
After being addicted and homeless, KEM found sobriety and independently released his first CD, KEMISTRY. Universal/Motown signed KEM in 2002, leading to an illustrious career containing five albums, including one Platinum and two Gold-selling. KEM is one of music’s highest-grossing touring acts, and his headlining PROMISE TO LOVE tour (named after his most recent album) will debut late 2015. KEM’s talents have garnered countless honors, including three GRAMMY and eight NAACP Image Award nominations.
In 2012, Top Dawg Entertainment superstar Kendrick Lamar released his critically acclaimed major label debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city. The album went on to sell over a million copies and spawned two platinum singles in “Swimming Pools” and “Poetic Justice” and garnered him seven Grammy nominations. Lamar’s Essence Festival debut comes on the heels of his newly released second major label album "To Pimp A Butterfly," which has broken the Spotify stream record for most streams in one day with 9.8 million streams and includes the Grammy winning single “i”. Since beginning with his 2011 Section.80, the Compton, California native has continued to grow as a lyricist and artist, proving his continued dominance over hip-hop.
Before Kevin Hart began his career, he sized men and women’s footwear in Philadelphia. Soon after, an electrifying performance at local amateur comedy club changed his life. Today, he tours the country to sold-out audiences and is a force in television, film and stand up. He is the executive producer on BET’s hit show, “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” which debuted its third season in September 2014. His growing film credits include “The Wedding Ringer,” “Top Five” and “Think Like a Man Too.” In March, Kevin can be seen alongside Will Farrell in “Get Hard.” In 2016, he can be seen in the highly anticipated “Ride Along 2.”
Remaining true to his beliefs, Lecrae is an artist that redefines mainstream popular culture. Lecrae has released seven bestselling albums and two mixtapes, won a Grammy award in the process and landed a global distribution deal with Red Distribution/Sony Music for the record label he co-owns, Reach Records. Lecrae is quickly developing into one of the biggest music stories of the year and his Cinderella rise has been noted everywhere from RollingStone, XXL Magazine, Vibe Magazine, The New York Times, and more.
Iconic Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, actress and philanthropist, Mary J. Blige is a figure of inspiration, transformation and empowerment making her one of the defining voices of the contemporary music era. With a track record of eight multi-platinum albums, nine Grammy Awards (plus a staggering 32 nominations), and four American Music Awards. Blige is a global superstar and has attracted an intensely loyal fan base- responsible for worldwide sales of more than 50 million albums.
The tight Maze band, featuring Frankie Beverly with his smooth soulful vocals, has been bringing honest, raw soul music to fans worldwide for more than 40 years. This seven-member band began their rise in the mid-70’s when Marvin Gaye heard them in San Francisco and took them on the road as his opening act. Treating audiences to heartfelt music from their many hit albums, Maze continues the tradition of being a crowd favorite at the Essence Festival.
You were probably one of the 118.5 million Super Bowl 2015 viewers who watched Missy Elliott ignite the crowd with her unforgettable performance of a medley of “Get Ur Freak On,” “Work It” and “Lose Control.” Digital sales of those songs skyrocketed in the following days, proving Missy is a singer/songwriter/producer with superstar power. This trailblazing rapper has won five Grammys, with nominations spanning three decades. Her six studio albums have each been RIAA platinum certified or better. Missy continues to be an extraordinary visionary.
Host Friday-Sunday. Comedian. Actor. Humanitarian. These three words describe Thomas Miles. Millions of fans love him for his outrageous humor on the radio as co-host of the nationally syndicated "Steve Harvey Morning Show," Prank Phone Calls and for his sold-out Nephew Tommy’s I got "People Inside my Head Comedy" tours. He’s an accomplished actor in hit TV shows and movies, most recently in "Baggage Claim." And for the past five years “Nephew Tommy” (he’s Steve Harvey’s nephew) wowed the crowds at the Essence Festival as Main Stage host. Entertaining troops on USO Holiday Tours inspired his “Miles of Giving” non-profit foundation to assist wounded veterans.
Tremaine Aldon Neverson was born in Petersburg, Virginia, a small town south of Richmond. Raised as an Army brat, Trey spent most of his earliest years moving from town to town.
With his latest release, "TRIGGA," Trey Songz has found the true meaning behind his music and has prepared his most intimate album yet. The album is an honest and solidifies his bond with his adoring fan base. "TRIGGA" will extend the legacy of "I GOTTA MAKE IT" (2004), "TREY DAY" (2007), "READY" (2009), "PASSION, PAIN & PLEASURE" (2010) and the triumphant #1 RIAA Gold-Certified album "CHAPTER V" (2012).
Trombone Shorty, a guest star on Prince's 2014 Essence set, returns to the Essence mainstage in 2015 with his band, Orleans Avenue. Part James Brown, part Jimi Hendrix and all New Orleans, the Grammy®-nominated artist began his career as a bandleader at the age of six, was touring internationally by age 12, and joined the horn section for Lenny Kravitz' worldwide tour at the age of 19. In 2014 he backed Macklemore and Madonna on the 56th Grammy awards, performed the halftime show on the 63rd NBA All-Star Game and recorded "Feel Right" with Mark Ronson and Mystikal for Ronson's "Uptown Special" album.
This is a big year for Usher, as he continues his superstar journey from "Star Search" twenty years ago to movie star in 2015! He’s currently on a world tour and finishing recording his eighth studio album. He’s putting on boxing gloves to play Sugar Ray Leonard in "Hands of Stone," co-starring with Robert DeNiro, in theaters this year. And he’s returning to New Orleans as a fan favorite at the Essence Festival! The eight time Grammy winner has sold over 65 million records. His philanthropic endeavors include his New Look Foundation which empowers youth from impoverished communities to become leaders.
Art of Hip-Hop Superlounge
Dee-1, a former middle-school teacher, first began making noise on the music scene several years ago. Since releasing his first studio project David & Goliath in 2009, he’s earned international attention and acclaim from his passionate messages and his energetic live performances. Dee-1 signed with RCA Inspiration in 2013 and has continued to gain fans all over the world, as well as respect from his peers, politicians, college professors and teens. A 2014 BET Music Matters artist, Dee-1 has toured with the likes of Macklemore, Lupe Fiasco and Lecrae. Featuring stand out singles, “Against Us” and “I’m Not Perfect,” Dee-1’s 3’S UP EP is currently available everywhere digital music is sold.
Doug E. Fresh is dubbed the “World’s Greatest Entertainer." Over the course of his 30 year career he has established himself as an artistic icon, a trailblazer, a businessperson and an activist. Fresh forever became part of music history as hip-hop’s originator of the human beatbox (vocally simulating the sound of drums and other musical instruments). Today his skill and talent has resulted in an enduring international hip-hop legacy that continues to break new ground. As a pioneering entertainer, Fresh possess the rare and gifted ability to captivate an audience. As a businessperson he has established several successful enterprises. As an activist he has set an example of the power of hip-hop and celebrity to address social ills.
Dumpstaphunk stands out among New Orleans’ best as one of the funkiest bands to ever arise from the Crescent City. Born on the Jazz & Heritage Festival stage, and descended from Neville family bloodlines, these soldiers of funk ignite a deep, gritty groove that dares listeners not to move. Dumpstaphunk tosses around lead vocals and four-part harmonies the way Sly & the Family Stone did, but with three studio albums under their belt, Dumpstaphunk stands on the merit of their own material. For more info visit http://www.dumpstaphunk.com
Known as the first true battle emcee, Kool Mo Dee is a Grammy award winning American Hip Hop pioneer who was prominent in the 1980s and early '90s. He has worked with such artists as Melle Mel, Ice T, Big Daddy Kane, Quincy Jones and more. In addition to rapping, Kool Moe Dee has appeared in a number of movies, has authored books, and written screenplays-one of which is scheduled for production in the Fall of 2015. Today, he is the host of his own show, titled "SPITFIRE" which will be airing soon.
After hearing MASE rap, Puff Daddy signed him to Bad Boy in 1996. He quickly became a popular guest rapper on Bad Boy releases and other Combs-related projects including “It’s All About the Benjamins.” MASE’s debut album, Harlem World, was an instant smash in 1997. But this Florida-born and Harlem-raised rapper surprised his fans when he retired from music after his second album, Double Up, to work with inner city youth and do inspirational speaking. He returned with a new album, "Welcome Back," in 2004.
The Billboard chart topping, Grammy nominated, "Prince Of The South" is back! With a career that’s spanned over 20 years and multiple phases, from Big Boy Records, to Jive, to No Limit, and most recently Cash Money, Louisiana’s own Mystikal is still going strong!
Slick Rick began his career in the 80s and released acclaimed recordings such as “La Di Da Di" and "The Show" with his partner Doug E. Fresh. In 1986, he was scouted by Def Jam, which resulted in the success of his multi-platinum debut album “The Great Adventures of Slick Rick." Rick recorded three more albums with the label. Today, he is still committed to his craft, performing throughout the country while also giving back to the community.
Hot Right Now Superlounge
Protégé of Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, Raphael Saadiq, Adrian Marcel garnered high praises out of the gates following the release of his first two official mixtapes, “7 Days of Weak,” and "Weak After Next". Equipped with a silky smooth voice, the rising artist has drawn comparisons to industry heavy weights such as El Debarge, Miguel, Frank Ocean, and Trey Songz. Currently climbing at radio outlets nationwide, his single “2AM” and "Spending the night Alone". Backed by a loyal fan base and endorsed by industry vets, the Oakland singer-songwriter is on a path straight to success.
Take one look at Andra Day, with her saucy rockabilly-inspired sound and you know you’re in the presence of a unique artist. The San Diego-bred singer and songwriter’s eye-catching personal style complements her brassy, yet alluring voice, as well as her music, which is both groovy and bluesy. Adorning her siren sound with uncompromising poetry, Day writes about the heartbreak she’s both experienced and caused, taking responsibility for her own life and actions.
GRAMMY® award-winning singer-composer-bassist Esperanza (Emily) Spalding has announced her newest project, Emily's D+Evolution. Rekindling her childhood interest in theater, poetry and movement, this new project delves into a broader concept of performance.Originally conceived the day before her birthday, during a "sleepless night of full moon inspiration", Emily's D+Evolution will be performing all new material that Esperanza says "unfolds as live musical vignettes.”
"Emily is my middle name, and I'm using this fresh persona as my inner navigator. This project is about going back and reclaiming un-cultivated curiosity, and using it as a compass to move forward and expand." says Spalding. "My hope for this group is to create a world around each song, there are a lot of juicy themes and stories in the music. We will be staging the songs as much as we play them, using characters, video, and the movement of our bodies."
At the age of 11, and without formal training, Mali Music would get behind the keyboard at a local church and play to a packed congregation every Sunday. For the young performer, it became about inciting physical, emotional, and spiritual change with only a beat, melody, and a smile. Decades later, nothing has changed. In fact, he’s only gotten better at impacting emotions, which is evident throughout his GRAMMY-nominated, major label debut album, "Mali Is…"
Nico & Vinz are a Norwegian duo whose debut album "Black Star Elephant" transcended globally. Their single “Am I Wrong” reached #1 in 50 countries, crossed 200 million Spotify streams and went 20x-platinum in Scandinavia. It was most Shazam’d song in the world and #1 most added record at the Top 40 format its first-week at US radio and held the #1 spot at Hot AC and Top 40.
Singing in her church choir near Orlando, Florida led Sevyn (born July 7) Streeter to become a member of the girl group TG4 while still a teen. That led her to join another girl group, RichGirl, who opened for Beyoncé’s 2009 tour. Sevyn discovered she loved writing as much as singing, and has penned tracks for top R&B players including Chris Brown, Brandy and Alicia Keys. With I Like It, her debut single as a soloist in 2012, Sevyn has established herself as an artist to watch.
SZA envelopes your soul at first listen. Coveting a special innocence about her, the Maplewood native laces her music with soul-quenching traces of seductive allure. It's truly the subtleties that make a difference though; the floral imagery, the small touches on her production, her concise yet intense songwriting. It all molds together to form this beautiful package.
"I was raised on a lot of John Coltrane, Satchmo, Miles Davis, Billy Holiday, and Björk with an adult obsession of all things Wu-Tang," says SZA. " The one thing I've always admired is their ability to paint scenes with their sounds. When I write I usually let the beat saturate my mood and head space; that determines every scene and set design for any song, the rest is all secondary."
SZA's sophomore EP 'S' is available for download on IAMSZA.com.
Soul of R&B Superlounge
With her thunderous, gospel-bred pipes and heart-to-heart content, the singer-songwriter Avery*Sunshine can't help spilling the truth in her music. Rooted in gospel, Avery*Sunshine reaches deep into that cornucopia of style and sound and sings a song, which articulates the complexities of life with luminous insight. With over 200-plus reviews and features, including VH1.com, Vibe.com, BET.com, JET, USA Today, The Washington Post and more, Avery*Sunshine has made her presence known.
Soul Singer, Bilal is one of the most eclectic artist of our time. His 2001, major label debut, "First Born Second" sold over 300,000 copies. His sophomore recording "Love For Sale" enjoyed over half a million downloads before its official release. In 2010, Bilal had a Grammy nomination for “Little Ones” off his album Air Tight’s Revenge and in 2013; he released "A Love Surreal"--named one of People Magazine’s top ten albums of the year.
Eric Roberson is a GRAMMY Award Nominee, Singer, Songwriter, and Producer from Rahway, NJ. Eric has achieved major milestones in his career, from being a successful songwriter and producer for notable artists like Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, Dwele and Vivian Green. Eric was nominated in both 2010 and 2011 for a GRAMMY Award in the “Best Urban/Alternative Performance” category. Eric’s 10th album, The Box, was released on August 12, 2014. www.ericrobersonmusic.com
Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan McReynolds has been wowing the industry and fans since the release of his 2012 debut album Life Music, garnering accolades including Dove and Stellar Award nominations. His upcoming second album includes the singles “Gotta Have You” and “Pressure.” The Chicago native’s songwriting and live performances continue to command attention on stages everywhere especially the Essence Festival, where he will be making his second consecutive appearance.
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.
An instrument embodied, timbre unmatched and words that call our most internal emotion…Lalah Hathaway’s presence is never mistaken nor forgotten. Skilled to the highest order, Hathaway’s voice possesses both power and vulnerability with a quiet resonance that fills spaces of grandeur and the hearts of many. Born into musical legacy, the offspring of musicians Donny Hathaway and Eulaulah Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway’s career was never a choice, “I was always a musician” Hathaway clarifies, “there was never a moment of maybe I’ll be…”
Have you ever been on a rollercoaster that you rode more than once? Still feel the same? Same rush? Well, get ready for that and more with the thrill seeking, innovative, Tank and The Bangas. With a mixture of spoken word, zingy theatrics, and soul rousing music Tank and the Bangas have no problem going against the grain of what traditional New Orleans music is supposed to sound like. The Bangas create the perfect compositions for front lady Tank to take you somewhere. Going from the heart felt sunken words of spoken word to front row at a rock concert you'll be sure to experience what fans can only describe as "The best rollercoaster I've ever been on."
Although most notably known for her 2004 debut on TVT Records, "Complex Simplicity," Grammy nominated and two-time BMI 'Songwriter of the Year' recipient, Teedra Moses has written songs and/or collaborated with the likes of Mary J. Blige, Macy Gray, Christina Milian, Raheem DeVaughn, Raphael Saadiq, and Walé. She's also become the recognizable voice on Rick Ross' records, with whom she's collaborated extensively.
Spring 2015, Moses will release her highly anticipated Shanachie debut, "Cognac & Conversation," her first commercially released album in a decade.
Mississippi-born, Louisiana-raised soul artist Tonya Boyd-Cannon began singing like many other daughters of preachers, in church. But unlike them Tonya possesses a fairly rare contralto voice which is almost identical to that of a countertenor. Tonya studied vocal performance in college to develop that gift. Focused on the road ahead, she continues to bring her distinctive voice and style to the stage and challenge the audience with amazing musical arrangements and lyrical content.
Now Playing Superlounge
Elle Varner was nine when she really heard her voice while singing in her church’s choir. In 2012, she released her debut album “Perfectly Imperfect”, which debuted at #2 and #4 on Billboard’s R&B Albums and Top 200 charts and eventually won her a Soul Train Music Award for “Best New Artist.”
As a performer, Elle has graced the stage on her headlining tour and in Trey Songz’s tour in 2012. She would go on to close her rookie year as the opening act on NaS’ headlining New Year’s Eve concert at NYC‘s Radio Music Hall.
Seamlessly blending genres, the eloquent singer/songwriter completed her first release "Closer" in 2001 and never looked back. Embraced from the beginning by critics and fans alike, Goapele carved a niche for herself as she created music that fused jazz, soul and hip-hop with her own beautiful poetry.
After taking six years off from recording, Goapele is back with "Break of Dawn," a collection of sophisticated songs about love, loss and all the life in between.
Philly native Jeff Bradshaw has toured the world playing alongside some of the industry’s biggest talents. His father was a minister so his formative musical experiences were in church, where brass bands were a staple. He chose to play trombone, determined to make it a hip instrument in mainstream music. He went on to become an architect of the neo-soul revolution. His third solo album “Home: Live at the Kimmel Center” will be released on March 31st.
Philadelphia’s Kindred the Family Soul consists of duo Fatin Dantzler and Aja Graydon. Married 16 years, this powerhouse came onto the scene in 2003 with their debut Surrender to Love, which features hit singles “Far Away” and “Stars”. Four albums followed: "In This Life Together," "The Arrival," "Love Has No Recession" and their 2014 critically acclaimed release of "A Couple Friends." Kindred is slated to return to the studio for their sixth offering this spring.
Best known for her role as the “hooker with the heart of gold” in the blockbuster comedy "Borat", as well as her two-year tour and DVD appearances with Katt Williams, Luenell has recently appeared in the blockbusters “Think Like A Man Too”, the 3D animated hit “Hotel Transylvania”, "Taken 2" and “That’s My Boy”. Luenell is staying in the spotlight with recent episodes of "Raising Whitley", "Real Husbands of Hollywood" and a series of stand-up comedy dates with talk-show host Wendy Williams.
Certain songs just have an uncanny ability to transport us back to memorable moments. Whether those memories are loving, painful or lustful, Raheem DeVaughn has made a career out of tapping into people’s emotions by creating personal soundtracks to our love lives. For his fifth studio album, "Love, Sex & Passion," the singer/songwriter wants to take listeners back to the future.
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.
Tweet burst on the music scene in 2002 with her first single, “Oops (Oh My)” which climbed to the top of the R&B/ Hip-Hop charts and made the industry take notice of her sultry lyrics and hypnotic
voice. Today, she is working on another full album titled "Soulfully Yours," which will remind us of why we first fell in love with her and why she is and will always be, Simply Tweet.