The road to HBO's Bessie release has been a well-traveled one with the accompanying Bessie 81 Theatre Tour hitting New York City for a three-day takeover. On Thursday night (April 30), the celebration ended in the Big Apple with a surprise performance by Janelle Monae to honor the late blues singer's legacy.

Prior to Monae taking the stage inside Stephan Weiss Studios, the two days before her set were filled with an artist workshop featuring producer Bryan-Michael Cox and singer-songwriter Stacey Barthe and a showcase of local talent including Brooklyn band the Phony Pple.

Monae, who recently released her new song "Yoga," kept the crowd engaged with her spirited performance. Those in the audience cheering her on during the 30-minute set included John Singleton, Bessie director Dee Rees, Sylvia Rhone and AJ Calloway.

Next up, HBO's Bessie 81 Theatre Tour heads to Los Angeles, where similar workshops and local talent will be showcased. Look out for a different surprise headliner on the West Coast. HBO's Bessie, starring Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith, debuts May 16.

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