The countdown is on! It’s exactly 24 days until the 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival kicks off July 6 in New Orleans.

In addition to Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Charlie Wilson, Trey Songz, Ledisi, D’Angelo and more, R&B singer Anthony Hamilton will take the main stage for the first time in the festival’s history.

In subtle changes to the line up, festival favorite Charlie Wilson will close out the main stage on Friday with a high energy performance and Gospel duo Mary Mary will take the stage on Saturday instead of Friday, as previously scheduled.

In related news, Steve Harvey will pay tribute to the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin on Sunday July 8 on the main stage.

As for the unofficial kick-off day of the festival, Thursday July 5, Disney star Coco Jones and Katlyn Nichol have been added to the “New and Next” stage already featuring Diggy Simmons, The OMG Girlz and the New Orleans’ marching band, The Roots of Music. Thursday night’s event will be hosted by actress Rocsi Diaz.

Finally, the ESSENCE Music Festival Block Party featuring Doug E. Fresh will be hosted by Amanda Diva and Carla Ferrell at Champions Square from 3 to 6 p.m. nightly. Attendees will enjoy DJ sets from Beverly Bond, MC Lyte, DJ Spinderella, Captain Charles, Kourtney Heart, Dee1 and F. Stokes.

Click here to buy your tickets for biggest festival happening in the nation July 4th weekend.