As we count down to the ESSENCE Festival, taking place June 30-July 3 in New Orleans, music critic Chuck Arnold will get you pumped with a mix of tunes from this year’s artist lineup.
Puff Daddy & the Family, “It’s All About the Benjamins”
Who doesn’t instantly feel like a baller or a shot-caller when the beat drops on this 1997 jam? It still never fails to rock the party from the club to the barbecue.
Common, “The Light”
Common wrote this 2000 love letter about then-girlfriend Erykah Badu, but he makes every woman feel like a queen, shining a light that is “special for you.” This is hip-hop with true heart.
Kendrick Lamar, “i”
This Grammy-winning single from K-Dot’s epic To Pimp a Butterfly is overflowing with feel-good vibes. Taking its breezy groove from the Isley Brothers gem “That Lady,” this is old-school-meets-new school perfection.
Estelle, “American Boy”
Estelle’s Grammy-winning breakout hit boasts an all-star team of American boys: Kanye West raps on the track, John Legend cowrote it, and will.i.am produced it. But this British girl still rules with her U.K. cool.
Andra Day, “Only Love”
There’s much more to the new ESSENCE cover girl than “Rise Up.” The retro-soul songstress gives you Shirley Bassey Bond-theme drama on another highlight from her Grammy-nominated debut, Cheers to the Fall.
Maxwell, “Lake by the Ocean”
The new single from Max’s upcoming album blackSUMMERS’night—which just so happens to drop the same day as his ESSENCE Festival headlining appearance on July 1—is smooth-flowing sumptuousness.
Babyface, “Two Occasions”
This quiet-storm classic is technically by the Deele, Babyface’s old group with L.A. Reid and crew. But Mariah Carey famously gave Babyface all the love when she shouted him out for this song on her smash “We Belong Together.”
Mariah Carey, “Underneath the Stars”
Minnie Riperton—the late ’70s songbird who was also Maya Rudolph’s mother—can be heard in the angelic spirt of this Daydream ballad that seems to float across the heavens.
New Edition, “Mr. Telephone Man”
With New Edition back on top of the R&B charts thanks to their feature on “This One’s for Me and You” (off Johnny Gill’s solo album Game Changer), it’s the perfect time to revisit when they were baby-smooth operators.
Buy your tickets to the 2016 ESSENCE Festival here and make sure to check back for more updates!