Essence Music Festival 2015 Day Two: Slick Rick, India Arie, Charlie Wilson & More [EXCLUSIVE]
The 2015 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans is in full swing after its kick off on Thursday night (July 3). Trey Songz performed a surprisingly abysmal set but it was sort of a preliminary day for the event.
On Friday (July 3), Slick Rick, India.Arie, Charlie Wilson and Frankie Beverly were on the bill to perform. In addition to these well-seasoned musicians, there were a couple of points overheard and outfits worn that we'd love to share with you here. Take a look at our list of the Top Seven Moments of Day Two at Essence Music Festival.
On Friday evening, Slick Rick performed a full set in the Coca-Cola Art of Hip-Hop Super Lounge. From his newer joints to the ones that made him famous -- "Mona Lisa", "Children's Story" -- Rick was just as confident and crisp with his spitting as one could imagine. All these years later, he takes his stage shows seriously enough to ensure that he isn't in front of a crowd forgetting his own lyrics. He even did an OutKast mini-set, incorporating "Da Art of Storytellin'" and his 1999 track "Street Talkin'" into his set.
Not only was his performance on-point, but the rapper was shining under the bright lights. We counted at least five heavy pendants on sturdy link chains and two glittering bracelets. There was a dad there too, appearing to be around 50 years old, sporting hiking sandals and two-stepping with his teenage daughter to a hip-hop medley, led by The Ruler.
If you're familiar with a lot of Slick Rick, then it's no secret that he can get sort of bawdy with the lyrics in his music. We have no doubt that Essence probably asked him to tone it down during his festival performance but he was able to sneak one in -- to his fans' delight. The beat dropped for his classic track "Lick the Balls" and just after working his way through the first verse, he tried some 'call and response' from the stage. "Fellas," he hollered. "Say 'lick the balls'..." The men in my area, turned to each other chuckling, looking bashful. One petite woman just in front of me, waited on the next call to action within the next refrain and shrieked, "Lick the balls!" Then she dissolved into giggles.
India.Arie hit the stage on Friday night with a genuine glow. Something had been happening in her life -- something good, one would presume -- because she just exuded happiness and peace onstage. Her set started on time and she jumped right into her most popular hits, "Video," "I Am Not My Hair" and "Brown Skin." The R&B chanteuse purposefully worked her way through the rest of her tracklist, breaking to dedicate a special version of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" to the black men in the audience. Then it looked as if India was going to burst in anticipation.
She gazed off stage. "Can she come up?," she asked with pleading eyes, "I have to do this 'cause I just want to."
A man appeared from the shadows of stage left with a small bundle of pink in his arms. "I have a new niece. I have a new niece!" Arie said, smiling wide. "Isn't she so pretty? I couldn't resist," she shared breathlessly. The singer turned the brown skinned baby towards the crowd, she wore pink headphones to match her pink outfit and gave her a kiss before handing her off to the handler who reappeared from the shadows. "That's my brother too," she said with a laugh. "But no one worries about him anymore."
On Friday night, everyone gets down but India.Arie does so gracefully, even when working in front of a stadium full of people. The "Ready for Love" singer performed her set at Essence Fest barefoot, in a flowy fuchsia dress that was lined underneath in white. At the start of her set, she appeared to be holding back just a little, but as the evening progressed, Arie would wave her arms a little more, curve her hips and kick her leg up, making the skirt of her dress fan out like a rose. She was having fun -- her way.
Charlie Wilson is an amazing performer -- there's no disputing that. On the second day of Essence Fest, he smashed it yet again -- in all of his blazers. The 62-year-old singer-songwriter started his set off in a glittery gold jacket, surrounded by three female dancers in their own glittery blazers with matching hats and booties, natch. But from beginning to end, Wilson, affectionately referred to as 'Uncle Charlie' by his younger fans, jumped from hit to hit. As the former lead singer of the Gap Band, there were so many joints to touch and Wilson never stopped moving -- and changing blazers of course. From "Party Train" to "Early in the Morning," Wilson only gave himself and his dancers about a minute and a half to catch their breath before heading into the next song. There was the glittering gold blazer, the blazer that had lights attached, the iridescent black tuxedo blazer, the iridescent white blazer -- he'd be in and out of those and his smash hits so fast, you'd miss a ton if you weren't paying attention. A Charlie Wilson show is a must-see and the soul icon continued his legacy of giving concertgoers more than their money's worth.
During a break in the uptempo, Charlie Wilson went into a gospel mini-set. "Hallelujah," he shouted before starting the opening lines to "My God is So Amazing" then his own 2013 track, "If I Believe." Wilson stopped to share some personal details with the crowd. "I'm 20 years, clean and sober," he revealed, then he started praying. "I made you a promise if you get me off the streets, everytime I get on the stage, I'll give you praise."
The former Gap Band frontman had kicked off his shoes, praise-danced, but for the first time all evening, this was a piece of the show that seemed raw and unplanned -- Wilson sat on the edge of a set stair and held a towel to his face. The crowd hollered in appproval. One lady near me screamed, "It's alright to praise Charlie! Praise God!"
On the evening before, a young lady was overheard talking with her friend about returning to the Mercedes Benz Superdome on Friday evening to catch Frankie Beverly & Maze.
"I've never seen them," she said. "But I always hear that he puts on a great show."
Her friend replied, "Get your linen ready." And it was true. All over the Superdome on Friday evening, there were couples, pockets of people, standing around in all white.
Some guys even wore the white baseball cap that Frankie Beverly usually performs in -- they had to have put in work to find that accessory. Where do you even find a white baseball cap?
It was a show of solidarity for the artist I suppose. A throwback to different concert-going times when people intended to match the artist performing and Frankie Beverly & Maze did an amazing job but it was definitely odd to see men, 50-years-plus showing up, dressed just like the lead singer.
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