The unapologetically boastful hip hop anthem “I’m a Boss” by rapper Meek Mills blasted from the speakers at the New Orleans Superdome to announce Kevin Hart’s debut performance at the ESSENCE Music Festival last night. It was the perfect soundtrack marking the state of Hart’s career and his rising star.

“Do y’all see my fire?” he asked an eager crowd, referring to the dazzling pyro flames shooting from the stage floor. “You gotta be a big deal to have fire, people!’ he said, admitting that the idea was inspired by Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Watch the Throne” concert. He declared himself the first comedian to add pyro to his routine and would randomly cue the flames to remind the crowd just how awesome he is.

Dressed in a black and white Louis Vuitton tee-shirt and black jeans, Hart quickly got in his zone, relying on the self-deprecating humor that’s made him one of the current kings of comedy. He spent the next hour telling tales about everything from his penchant for lying (“It’s a disease,” he joked), male friends who can’t keep secrets and his horrible luck with bodyguards — one once told him to play dead during a shootout at a club.

The Think Like a Man star also discussed the reasons behind his recent divorce from ex-wife Torrei — he cheated. His problem though, he joked, wasn’t the actual cheating, rather his tendency to lie. But there’s no love lost between the two exes, he continued. “She’s happy, she’s moved on. I’m happy, I’ve moved on. I’m happier than she is though,” Hart joked. “I’m doing a lot of happy s**t these days.” So happy that he’s started walking through the park and feeding pigeons, something he could never imagine doing as a married man for fear of being accused of having an affair because, after all, what man walks around feeding pigeons?

From his cheating issues to his faulty bodyguards, Hart’s animated storytelling brought the laughs and not only packed the New Orleans Superdome, but confirmed that he, like Jay-Z and Kanye, has reached, “stadium status.”


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