The 2022 ESSENCE Fest holds the distinction of being the first return of the festival since 2019, and no time was wasted in bringing the brightest new talent to a highly anticipatory crowd.
Hosted by LeToya Luckett, the Coca-Cola Hot List SuperLounge brought together a group of young, talented Black female artists in R&B and Hip-Hop to showcase a range of musical offerings before the night’s headlining Nicki Minaj performance.
Luckett announced, “We’re here to show love to these amazing artists,” after praising the opening artist, Raiche. The Pittsfield, Massachusetts vocalist gave a soulful performance of three songs from her new EP, including the bubbling heartbreak-to-comeback track, ‘Burn Your Clothes.’ As a gifted songwriter, Raiche is no stranger to songs about self-discovery and finding your truest self — she covers these themes in her forthcoming album, LOVELAND.
Raiche’s energetic stage presence flowed well into the next artist with a similar strength for instrumentation and anthemic ballads–Ida Divine. The Shyland songstress grew up in Staten Island, New York, heavily inspired by the Wu Tang Clan and other iconic hip-hop acts of the era. As she became more attuned to her vocal prowess, she adopted her favorite features of the genre she loves to create her signature indie-soul sound as heard on setlist standout, “Cherry Soda.” This distinct sound, she announced on the Hot List stage, may even earn her a Grammy in the future. This year, Divine was admitted for consideration by the Academy of Music.
The surprises only continued from there as LeToya returned to the stage to tease a very special performer. “You may know her from the new hit show Bel Air,” she acclaimed, “please welcome Coco Jones!” Coco then arrived onstage aglow with her signature smile and unmistakable stage presence, relaying her gratitude to the audience throughout her performance of crowd favorite, ‘Caliber.’ The former Disney star has not only grown into the gifted actress and YouTube personality we see on the Fresh Prince reboot but is quickly earning her flowers as a skilled and soulful vocalist. During her set, she paid tribute to R&B greats with covers of Brandy’s ‘I Wanna Be Down’ and Tevin Campbell’s ‘Can We Talk.’ Great performances like the ones on day 1 of the Hot List stage are only the beginning for Jones and her fellow performers.
As the night continued, guests saw performances by more leading young women in the R&B and Hip Hop spaces such as the immensely talented Justine Skye, the seductively confident DreamDoll, Rubi Rose, and breakout southern MC, Monaleo. All four artists exemplify the tactful bravado that makes Black women so very necessary to both genres.
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