Sunday evening (July 3) marked the final night of performances at the 2017 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans. The lineup featured sets from Solange, Master P, and Chance the Rapper on the main stage and Elle Varner, Daley, BJ the Chicago Kid, Tweet, and Xscape upstairs in the SuperLounges.
Solange was the second performer to hit the main stage on Sunday behind global artist Ithwasa Lekhansela who opened. Her set was simple: amber lighting from overhead with a red glow from the screen behind. Dressed in a slouchy sweater and leather slacks, the A Seat at the Table creator jumped into “Cranes in the Sky” and “Don’t Wait” then Solange, her band, and background singers filed into a line across the stage. She screamed unintelligibly into the mic for a few moments and moved into “Mad”: “You...oooh...have the right...”
“She sound like Beyonce on this...” one woman remarked within earshot. Even with her music sounding like the polar opposite of her big sister’s, and her stage show looking completely different, with funk and mod vibes and interpretive dance-inspired transitions between songs--even with all those points, it was inevitable that people would compare the two artists. Still, Solange is effectively making her own way and having fun in the meantime with her full twist out bouncing as she goes.
Upstairs, Tweet was at the Walmart SuperLounge pulling a fan onstage. “Tishawna is gonna help me out with this one,” the songstress said, smiling. “‘Cause I can sing it, but I want her to sing it.” The music started for her 2002 album cut “Beautiful” and Tweet stood back watching the impact of her music through a fan with a mic and a full lounge of people. “Taxi” was next and the crowd shouted their approval as the opening instrumental cued up. “Oh, and I know he’s watching the time...” Tweet voice echoed powerfully throughout the room and her audience swayed in unison as she sang. “Thank you. Good night,” she teased playfully before moving on to some songs from her latest album. “No. I can’t say ‘good night’ yet. Who got that lil’ EP I just did?”
Across the way, Daley was wrapping up his set at the Ford SuperLounge and the line for Xscape was beginning to get out of control at the adjacent SuperLounge.
Typically, Sundays at Essence are the most laidback and easy, but the event team made a major error in scheduling for Xscape. The group was slated to perform at one of the SuperLounges upstairs -- instead of the main stage -- and the chain reaction to this led to complete mayhem on the third floor of the Superdome, 20 minutes before they were due onstage. “This is the line for Xscape?,” one woman asked incredulously. The line had wrapped around at least 1,000 feet of the corridor.
Fans leaving Daley’s show stepped out into the hall, caught a glimpse and panic filled their eyes. “Like, what if people only came here to see them?,” one woman complained to a friend. “I only came to see them. Why wouldn’t they be on the main stage? That shit is stupid.”
As hometown hero Trombone Shorty played the main stage, bringing Juvenile out for “Back That Ass Up,” the crowd cheered downstairs, but upstairs the line grew even longer and eventually the entire third floor was shut down. The escalators at the SuperDome had been problematic all weekend, but now with the amount of people headed upstairs to witness the Xscape reunion, this was a real issue.
Only the first couple hundred people in line had a chance to enter and watch Xscape, and a sliver of their show was streamed to the mainstage but the majority of fans were clearly disappointed.
Master P was next up downstairs with his own reunion featuring Silkk tha Shocker, Mystikal, and Mia X. The New Limit general entered through the crowd with a second line band and stood onstage with the confidence of being home. “I’ma bring all the stars out tonight!,” he enthused. “Hey Trina...” The crowd screamed in anticipation, knowing what would come next. Silkk tha Shocker glided out and Trina came shortly after to perform “That’s Cool.” P had a few other surprises in store that night as well, bringing Snoop Dogg out to perform “Gin & Juice.”
Chance the Rapper closed out this year’s Essence Festival on the main stage and people were inspired. Some cried, others recited his lyrics, faces turned upward, and one woman was on her knees praying in the front row. Keeping things uncomplicated onstage and leaving the focus on the music, Chance won. The screen behind him played a big part in telling the story. The Chicago native rode in on a “bike” and jumped into “Mixtape,” “Angels,” and “I’m the One.” “Blessings” ended his set and for his first time at Essence, Chance made a real statement about hip-hop on a Sunday and what that could mean.