Essence Music Festival: From Boyz II Men to Kanye West
The magazine's annual New Orleans event celebrates "the Essence" of R&B, but it was a rapper who stole the show.
Much like the women's magazine it's named after, the Essence Music Festival -- from its musical acts to the panel topics at its empowerment series -- directs everything toward the type of folk who are not only black and proud but also arguably proud to be black Americans.
For those who descended upon New Orleans -- where the festival is held every year in the first weekend of July, usually coinciding with America's Independence Day -- this year's Essence Music Festival was its own type of freedom party, where Frankie Beverly and Maze's "Before I Let Go" replaced the "Star-Spangled Banner" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing" as the national anthem of choice, and the fireworks were happening on the main stage of the Superdome during Kanye West's set on Saturday night.
I made my first journey to what most folks call "the Essence" with a group of friends in 2007. That year, we felt as if we had discovered a secret of sorts. Sure, there were more people than we could count walking the streets of the French Quarter with their friends and family, but we still felt like there could be even more. Every year, people will ask, why "the Essence"?
It's simple math: World-class music + world-class food + people from all over the world + a city known all over the world for partying = the best Fourth of July weekend.
This year, it all added up to yet another wonderful combination of sights, sounds and smells, though I couldn't help noticing a sense of malaise over the audience during the shows at the Superdome.