The final weekend of the 2021 ESSENCE Festival of Culture’s Evening Concert Series was one of the best yet. It featured a variety of genres, and brought the perfect balance of nostalgia and present-day with performances from Davido, Amerie, Wale, Ne-Yo, Busta Rhymes and more.
Hosted by the beautiful Eva Marcille, the evening began with a memorable set from singer-songwriter, Case. He performed a few of his 90’s classics for an small crowd in New Orleans, LA.
Beginning with “Think of You,” off of his Personal Conversation album, Case showed that he has not lost a step as an artist. His 20-minute performance included “Touch Me, Tease Me,” “Happily Ever After,” and the Grammy nominated “Missing You.” The city’s beautiful weather, along with Case’s voice, made the evening’s opening set even more entertaining.
After the tragic loss of Christopher Wallace, better known as The Notorious B.I.G.; Bad Boy Records experienced a time of uncertainty. There were a couple of artists that helped the label maintain a high level of success, one of whom was Carl Thomas, who delivered a memorable performance.
His set opened with video footage of Diddy paying homage before a previous show. Thomas walked out to “Can’t Believe,” then promptly transitioned to the aptly titled, “Summer Rain.” After about two more songs, Thomas spoke about his life-changing surgery he went through in 2019 – an event that changed his life and brought him closer to his faith.
He concluded his set with two songs from his 2000 debut, Emotional. The album’s highest charting singles “I Wish,” and “Emotional,” left the crowd with a positive last impression during Saturday’s Evening Concert Series.
As the Evening Concert Series progressed, the location shifted to the Coca-Cola Juke Joint SuperLounge. Everyone’s favorite Club Quarantine DJ D-Nice, took to the stage to host the next two performance. Proud Washington, D.C. native Amerie, hit the Juke Joint stage first to perform her debut single “Why Don’t We Fall In Love,” —a popular one with many of the Festival’s virtual audience. “Songs like this really bring me back to a special time in my life,” one viewer typed. The acoustics in the SuperLounge accentuated the production for her hit, “One Thing,” and the bass-heavy, “Talkin’ To Me.” D-Nice later explained that Amerie was an artist that he always wanted to work with, and their chemistry was evident throughout her performance.
Ne-Yo’s energetic set was another highlight of the weekend as this Grammy nominated singer, songwriter and producer exuded the soul of a youthful Michael Jackson and reminded the audience that he’s a true master of the stage.
His chart-topping single, “So Sick,” primed the audience for what was to come. The song’s smooth instruments and Ne-Yo’s emotional involvement with his song, “So Sick” made for a memorable set. In what was a dedication to the ESSENCE Festival’s audience, he also performed “U 2 Love,” as well as “No Plans For Love.”
The night’s main event consisted of the incomparable DJ Khaled, along with some of hip-hop’s top artists. Beginning with Rae Sremmurd, the Mississippi-born duo performed songs from SremmLife – “No Type” and “No Flex Zone.” Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee’s 2016 viral sensation, “Black Beatles,” concluded the group’s set, and made way for the next act.
Fat Joe’s ability to construct a song that caters to many different audiences is a strong reason why he has been able to stay relevant in hip-hop for almost 30 years. A frequent collaborator with DJ Khaled, Joe still remains underrated as a rapper. His hits “What’s Luv,” and “Lean Back” brought the virtual audience back to the mid-2000s, during the height of his epic run in the music industry.
Widely known for his introspective lyrics, rapper Wale’s setlist was perfect for the ESSENCE Festival stage. “Pole Dancer” and “Bait” – two of his more popular songs – are club friendly and play well when performed live. His final song, “Lotus Flower Bomb” still remains a fan favorite, especially with African-American women around the world.
For the final performance of the Evening Concert series, the legendary Busta Rhymes blessed the stage in what was a standout moment. “Czar” and “Master Fard Muhammed” from his 2020 release Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God, showcased the MC’s high-level lyrical ability.
Spliff Starr, Busta’s close friend and longtime hype-man, only added to the energy of his performance. Songs such as “Break Ya Neck,” “Touch It,” and “Look At Me Now” nearly brought the house down, and “Scenario” added a sprinkle of nostalgia to a nearly flawless set.
The 2021 ESSENCE Festival of Culture’s Evening Concert Series was one for the record books. With stellar performances from Case, Carl Thomas, Amerie, Ne-Yo, DJ Khaled and more, this years’ Festival was only a taste of what’s to come as the Festival makes its’ anticipated return to NOLA in 2022.. Be sure to check out the full concert HERE if you haven’t already. See you next year!