We are in the final stretch; this was the LAST DAY of the 2017 Essence Music Festival. Tonight’s show line up flipped back to the usual formula, whereas it wasn’t any particular theme, just a cornucopia of music acts, ranging from performances by Solange, Master P, Trombone Shorty and Chance the Rapper on the main stage.
The youngest of the Knowles’ clan was up, for what was her first ever mainstage appearance. Solange has performed at the Essence Fest on four different previous occasions, but with the massive year that she’s had, the festival organizers couldn’t help but to bring her out of the superlounges and put her at the forefront of the shows. If you’ve been keeping in touch with music, you know that her latest album “A Seat At The Table” pays homage to blackness, with an extremely unique and funky sound that. That sound, we can give a lot of credit to Solo being a New Orleans resident, where as she infused that Nola vibe into many of her cuts, which she performed on stage. The music was displayed in its purest form with her 6 piece band who played all of the tracks live…there were no tracks found here. Her show would be best described as avant-garde because for one, the entire stage was bathed in red light, which takes your eyes some time to get adjusted to. On top of that her entire crew were dressed in red from head to toe while engaging in very precise, but Solange-esq choreography. If you’ve every seen any of her performances, you know exactly what I mean.
She performed a good amount of the “ASATT” album, while also mixing in songs from her previous albums. During her set she hopped down off the stage to be one with the crowd while performing “F.U.B.U.” Sitting in the audience allowed me to see how much her music has really impacted people, but more particularly, younger black women. One festival goer who sat in the row behind me made the comment “I received my entire soul from Solange tonight”…that’s a pretty big statement to make and we’re sure several others left with the same feeling.
Having a tough act to follow, New Orleans’ own Trombone Shorty was next up at bat. With home field advantage, Shorty commanded the stage with high levels of showmanship. When you’re an act who is primarily a musician, you have to pull out all the stops to keep your audience engaged. One of those stops that he pulled was having another New Orleans native, Juvenile join him on stage. The show quickly went from a jazzy type feel, to twerk hour at the club when we heard those infamous words “Cash Money Takin’ over for the 99 and 2000” and the beat for “Back That Ass Up” swooped in.
Meanwhile upstairs, there was a LOT of R&B goodness going on. Chloe X Halle, BJ the Chicago Kid, June’s Diary, Daley, Leela James, Elle Varner, Tweet, and others were giving it up, but honestly anyone who was there that night, was there for the first full Xscape reunion in over 18 years. Those ladies literally shut down the third floor of the superdome, leaving many longtime fans out in the cold and highly pissed.
In many cases, Essence Fest has served as the catalyst for reunions of some of our most beloved musical stables, and this year wouldn’t be no different. Master P was able to get his No Limit Soldiers back in formation for their first reunion in several years. Mia X, Silkk the Shocker, Mysitkal, Lil Romeo, Krazy, Mr. Serv-On were all in attendance for what many folks were expecting to be one of the highlights, but for some folks, ended up falling a little flat. Granted there were a lot of bangers that were performed, it was delivery that created a disconnect for some folks. I mean you really can’t fault them, it HAS been almost 20 years since most of the rappers had performed, so we’ll give them a pass. In an unexpected edition, “Uncle Snoop” appeared out of nowhere and sent the crowd into a frenzy when he performed a few songs of his own. The climax of the whole entire set was when they the No Limit Family all came together to perform their hyped anthem “Make Em Say Ugh“.
With the intent of having the festival go out on a high note, Chance The Rapper was a perfect choice to close the weekend out. Chance is the exception to the rule amongst most of these rappers who are prevalent in today’s industry, where as he doesn’t limit himself to the norm. Your typical rapper would not feature much production value to their show, rely on a hype man to help them perform half of their songs, and use a track to make due. NONE of this was the case for the young Chi-town native, as his Essence set featured a full band, video screens and pyro.
Footage courtesy Spencer Clements on Youtube
While taking breaks from his songs, he would take the time out to talk to the audience about some of his many philanthropic works, which is several. He’s one of the young dudes in the industry who I can’t help but tip my hat to and give him his full respects for what he’s doing for the black community. That same humility plays out on stage, as he gave everyone that backed him their just due. There have been many occasions where I’ve watched the crowd start to leave early during the last act’s show, but Lil Chino had everyone’s attention until his very last song, and for good reason.