The second night of the 2023 ESSENCE Festival was an amazing showcase of hip hop, R&B, and soul music. Held at the Caesar’s Superdome in New Orleans, the evening featured many of the most important acts of this generation.
The evening’s emcees were Spice Adams and the multi-talented Affion Crockett, with the iconic Kid Capri appearing as the guest DJ for Saturday night’s festivities. Shortly after 7:00pm, Coco Jones, singer and star of the Peacock series Bel-Air, welcomed this ESSENCE audience for what would come to be a great night of music. She performed tracks from her recent album What I Didn’t Tell You, including her Billboard Hot 100-charting single, “ICU.”
Following Jones’ set, some of the West Coast’s greatest artists served as a reminder of why California has been pivotal for the growth and development of hip hop for over 30 years. Rapper, actor, songwriter, and filmmaker Ice Cube, began with several of his more notable hits, bringing out left coast legends such as Ice T, E-40, DJ Quik, Rodney O, Yo-Yo, Lady of Rage, and J.J Fad. After a brief intermission, Monica graced the stage in New Orleans, and gave the crowd songs that included, “Don’t It Personal (Just One of Dem Days) “Angel of Mine,” and “So Gone,” among others, and concluded with an ode to New Orleans, second lining as she exited the platform.
The family of the New Orleans legend Soulja Slim also gave a stirring tribute to the fallen rapper in a brief interlude. Kicking off the next medley of the night, Jermaine Dupri let everyone know that the South still has something to say, almost three decades after Andre 3000 uttered those famous words at the 1995 Source Awards. Throughout this monumental performance, JD played some of the songs he’s written and/or produced, as well as 1998’s “Money Ain’t A Thang,” featuring JAY-Z. The So So Def founder also brought Big Boi, Sleepy Brown, T.I., Gucci Mane, Lil Jon, and Ludacris, in an ode to Southern rap music.
3-time, Grammy Award-winning songstress Jill Scott rocked the crowd for almost an hour, with a performance for the ages. The ESSENCE Festival alumni serenaded the audience with songs she’s written throughout her career, as well as singing her unique rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” which was appropriate for upcoming observation of July 4th on Tuesday.
Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott closed out the jam-packed evening on high note, walking out to a science-fiction themed backdrop, filled with spaceships and alien-like dancers surrounding the stage. The Virginia native gave a live performance like none other, and provided the Superdome crowd – along with streaming viewers worldwide – with a firsthand experience into why she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year.
All in all, the second night of the 2023 ESSENCE Festival of Culture was one for the books. Be sure to catch night three, featuring Megan Thee Stallion, Wizkid, Tems, and a special tribute to women in hip hop, curated by the legendary Angie Martinez. See you there!