Day three of the ESSENCE Fest concerts proved to be an R&B and hip-hop lover’s paradise. Tank began by bringing the New Orleans heat inside with “Sex Music” followed by taking it back to when we first met him with his 2001 single, “Maybe I Deserve.” “Can I take my clothes off y’all?” he asked before wooing the ladies with steamy rendition of “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Offering words of wisdom, the R&B songwriter and producer explained, “God has someone for everyone and that we don’t have to rely on empty promises.” Before leaving the stage he paid homage to the 35 and under crowd by dancing to “Poison,” followed by “Before I Let Go” for those 35 and over.
Ledisi hyped up the sold-out crowd by entering the stage twirling a red umbrella while singing “That Good Good”, “Pieces of Me” and the upbeat hit, “I Blame You.” The New Orleans native concluded by stating three lessons she learned before singing the fan favorite, “It’s Alright.” “Have faith, love yourself,” she said. “And be careful of who and what you allow in your circle.”
The Roots brought the funk to the stage with crowd-pleaser’s like “The Seed (2.0)” and “You Got Me”, before Jazzy Jeff DJ’d a set. But, the ultimate treat came by way of Common, as he surprised guests by performing “The Light.” Then Nelly stole the show with his bubbly hits like, “Country Grammar” and “Hot in Herre.” In between surprise performances, The Roots vibed to the music in the background, at one point even doing the electric slide. The hip-hop/neo soul band ended their set with a special performance by Naughty By Nature who got the crowd going with 90’s hits like, “O.P.P” and “hip-Hop Hooray.” Biz Markie, another unexpected guest, crooned the Maze classic, “Before I Let Go” and his trademark single, “Just a Friend.”
Just as the crowd regained composure, Jill Scott gracefully hit the scene fully in charge singing “Gimme,” in gray and white pants and large sunglasses. The Philadelphia native followed up with “The Way,” and “Crown Royal” giving a truly magical moment.
The biggest highlight of the entire night came last when Mary J. Blige, a true believer in soulful storytelling, immediately hit the stage belting “Enough Cryin’”. As she hit notes and dance moves exactly as she did 20 years ago, the Bronx beauty didn’t disappoint. Among the 22 songs she sang were “I’m Goin’ Down”, “Not Gon’ Cry”, “Share My World” and “Don’t Mind.” But, Mary wasn’t only speaking to the ladies, she also offered a message to the fellas. “See guys, once we say [I love you],” she began, “We expect you to have our backs and respect us. Most of all, we need to trust in you!” But, her words were all in love, as she finished with “Family Affair” before saying goodnight.