Go Behind The Scenes Of ESSENCE Fest's 25th Anniversary: Party With A Purpose

Missy Elliott 

Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images


Go Behind The Scenes Of ESSENCE Fest's 25th Anniversary: Party With A Purpose

Check out who stopped by backstage with the Recording Academy for exclusive interviews and more

GRAMMYs/Jul 7, 2019 - 07:11 am

ESSENCE Fest is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and its pulling all the stops at the New Orleans' Superdome to show out. This year's fest, appropriately titled Party With A Purpose, brought out the some of the most iconic names in music, politics and other aspects of black culture. Check out who stopped by backstage with the Recording Academy for exlusive interviews and more below.

GRAMMY winner PJ Morton stopped by to talk about his history-making performance. The singer/songwriter and musician is the first artist to have recorded a live album at the fest. He told the Recording Academy that for him it was a coming full-circle moment.

GRAMMY-nominated artist Rapsody sat down with us to talk about the influential musical lineage of Black women who inspired her new album, Eve. Find out how she hopes to keep the tradition alive in our exlusive interview.

BJ The Chicago Kid came to ESSENCE Fest on a mission: "Ya'll need to know how important this album is," he tells the Recording Academy about his new album 11/23, which comes out July 26. Find out who he was excited to collab with on his forthcoming album in our chat with him. 

Missy Elliott celebrates the 20th anniversary of the GRAMMY-nominated Best Rap Album Da Real World and was inducted in the Songwriters Hall Of Fame last month by delivering a unforgettable main stage performance on Friday.

DaniLeigh stopped by the Recording Academy corner for a glamour shot. The artist was one of the performers of ESSENCE's After Dark performance series.

MAJOR. hung around backstage Friday night and stopped by for a snapshot. 

GRAMMY nominated rap pioneer MC Lyte is a busy woman. She took a quick minute backstage at the 25th ESSENCE Fest this weekend to talk about her latest projects, including curating “Women In Hip-Hop” for the festival. Check out who it featured in our interview

Sunday's main stage belonged to Mary J. Blige, who gave the Superdome crowd all the hits they could handle.

Angelica Vila brought her glowing vibe backstage at the Recording Academy photobooth. 

We caught up with GRAMMY-nominated R&B singer/songwriter Elle Varner backstage at ESSENCE Fest in New Orleans, where she told us what she hopes fans take away from her new album.

Water Seed stepped into the room all smiles and good vibes. 

Kenyan band Sauti Sol was in the house Friday night and stopped by the Recording Academy's corner backstage.

Saturday saw main stage headliner and GRAMMY winner H.E.R. deliver an electrifying set in an electric green outfit. 

Singer Nicole Bus performed at one of the ESSENCE After Dark series and stopped by to say hello.

Yung Miami of rap duo City Girls came through backstage to chat with us about writing with her partner JT, collaborating with Cardi B, what ESSENCE means to her and more.

Mumu Fresh sat down with us backstage to talk how she began to rhyme, what she learned as a back-up singer from groups like the Roots, what she loves about ESSENCE Fest and more.

Afrobeats artist Ayoinmotion, who puts on a live performance that dares you to stay still, brought his music and energy to the 25th ESSENCE Festival and stopped by for an interview

London's NAO first time at ESSENCE Fest included a chat with the Recording Academy. The singer felt right at home at the Party With A Purpose.

Rotimi's first time performing at ESSENCE Fest had him hyped during a chat with the Recording Academy. 

Singer Lucky Daye came to ESSENCE Fest ready to light up the stage. 

Jacquees caught us up on what he's working on and more. Expect his next album Round 2 soon. 

Christian "King" Combs brought his legacy to the fest. The rapper spoke with the Recording Academy about his new Cyncerely EP out now.

GRAMMY-nominated sensual singer Ro James dropped by to talk his much-anticipated next album. 

Rapper Bone Crusher had everyone laughing backstage. 

Tanzanian musician Rayvanny came through back stage with a big smile.

The Party With A Purpose would not be the same without South African rapper Nasty C. 

New York's very own emcee Oswin Benjamin was in the house as well.

Party With A Purpose: 5 Things To Get Excited For At ESSENCE Fest 2019 

The Magic Of ESSENCE 25th Anniversary Celebration: "It's Like A Family Reunion Even Though You Don't Know Everybody Here"

Mary J. Blige

Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty Images


The Magic Of ESSENCE 25th Anniversary Celebration: "It's Like A Family Reunion Even Though You Don't Know Everybody Here"

"Being able to celebrate black culture at this magnitude means everything because we've never had anything like this," MC Lyte said

GRAMMYs/Jul 9, 2019 - 04:57 am

New Orleans' Central Business District looked starkly different Monday morning as city locals hurried to work in ties and business attire. Gone were the crowds of people walking around in the heat of the southern city in their most fabulous summer outfits as R&B, hip-hop, soul and more took over the Big Easy's Superdome once again for ESSENCE Fest 25th anniversary

This year locals and those from far and wide came together to watch performances from iconic artists like Missy Elliott and Mary J. Blige and hitmakers like Pharrell Williams and Timbaland to emerging artists like Normani and H.E.R at the biggest festival celebration of black culture in the country that took place July 5–7. But the festival was more than just music, it was a space where conversations around food, politics, business and more.  

While the fest has happened in New Orleans since its inception, this year was different for great reason. The fest, born out of ESSENCE magazine aimed mostly to its black female readership, celebrated 25 years of brining different parts of black culture under one roof and the musical artists performing reflected on the milestone. MC Lyte, who curated one of the ESSENCE events that took over the venues all over the city, with women in hip-hop broke down why the fest means so much. 

"Being able to celebrate black culture at this magnitude means everything because we've never had anything like this. Growing up, we certainly didn;t at least in my era and even now to date. The ESSENCE Music Festival is truly one of a kind," she said. 

For some performers like New Orleans native  PJ Morton, the 25th anniversary was a very special moment as it brought him back full-circle.  

"I've been going to this festival since I was 14 years old and really changed my life as far as wanting to be a musician and seeing how it was presented, " he said. "When ESSENCE asked me to be a part [of the festival] again, I said 'I just don't want to play it again, I've played it before, let's do something special. Especially to kind of commemorate all these things, winning the GRAMMY award this year and me being able to come home. Part of winning that GRAMMY and writing those songs and making that album was me leaving L.A. and moving back home to new Orleans three years ago, so for me it was just a perfect full-circle moment to do a recording."

The singer made history during the night of his performance by recording a live album at the fest for the first time ever.

But he wasn't the only local with special ties to the fest. Rising star Normani, also a big easy native and first time performer at the fest, shared why the fest is so special to her.

"I'm grateful that I can finally be a part of it. For as long as I can remember growing up ESSENCE was ESSENCE and it's just really coolfor me to be a prt of it. My grandmother, she came, my nanny came,  my uncles they came out too and it's beautiful for me to be able to really represent my city in such a way, she said."

The opportunity to talk and have conversations with other women in particular is what excites singer Mumu Fresh the most about the festival. "[Women] who are affirming you and just sharing their stories."

"It's like a family reunion even though you don't know everybody here.They've shared your experience and everyone's just loving and gorgeous, all day long I've been walking by strangers who have been like 'YES hair, YES shoes YES face' and I'm like 'Awww heeyy, you too.' It's really fun, it's really beautiful."

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Ro James Is Rested And Ready To Drop His Sophomore Album

Ro James 


Ro James Is Rested And Ready To Drop His Sophomore Album

"I've just been in my creative space for a little while figuring out how to make sure I make the greatest [album]," he told the Recording Academy backstage at ESSENCE Fest

GRAMMYs/Jul 11, 2019 - 02:12 am

It's been two years since GRAMMY-nominated sensual R&B singer/songwriter Ro James released an album, but after some time off, he says now is the time to put it out. 

"I've just been in my creative space for a little while figuring out how to make sure I make the greatest [album] and being honest with what I feel at the moment," he told the Recording Academy backstage at ESSENCE Fest. "I took my time and took a little break and fell out the energy, lived a little bit, so now it's time to put it out."

James said the album will drop in September and will be a reflection of "growth and evolution, good energy [and] positivity." The German-born Panamanian artist wants fans to know that although his inspiration is always love, this one won't be like his debut, 2016's Eldorado.

"Every album that I put out, I want people to look at it as a painting in a gallery; everyone is different, you appreciate everyone for whatever," he said. 

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Party With A Purpose: 5 Things To Get Excited For At ESSENCE Fest 2019

Missy Elliott 

Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Something in the Water


Party With A Purpose: 5 Things To Get Excited For At ESSENCE Fest 2019

Check out the five events we're looking forward to at ESSENCE Fest's 25th Anniversary weekend

GRAMMYs/Jul 4, 2019 - 08:34 pm

The 25th annual Party With a Purpose is upon us: ESSENCE Fest 2019.

From Friday, July 5 through Sunday, July 7, New Orleans' Mercedes Benz Superdome will once again become the hub where black culture is celebrated through music, food, and entertainment as well as uplifted through leadership events and more.

This year, the three-day festival is sure to be that much more spectacular as it celebrates a quarter century of moving black culture forward. And there could be no other way to do than what the fest has in store: Check out five major events happening at Essence 2019 that we can't wait to experience. 

Michelle Obama Will Be In The House 

What's the biggest indicator that this party will be like no other? Former First Lady Michelle Obama is invited! 

She stole the show earlier this year at the 61st GRAMMY Awards, and we can only expect that she'll do the same at the Superdome. Along with TV titan and journalist Gayle King, Obama will be a part of a special keynote conversation hosted by comedian Loni Love on the mainstage Saturday, July 6. 

"It will be my first time hosting the main stage and @MichelleObama ‘s first time attending @essencefest ... Saturday July 6th join us in #neworleans!!" Love tweeted

And she won't be the only familiar face from the political world Saturday; Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg have been added to the speaker lineup at the Power Stage Keynote.

Main Stage Music: Missy Elliott & More

There's nothing like the ESSENCE concert series. This year, Essence welcomes headliners and hip-hop and R&B legends Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige, Nas, Big Freedia, Teyana Taylor, Timbaland, Ledisi and H.E.R to the main stage. 

This year, Elliott celebrates the 20th anniversary of the GRAMMY-nominated Best Rap Album Da Real World and was inducted in the Songwriters Hall Of Fame last month. 

The rapper took to Twitter to tease her performance at Essence:

The Superlounges

BJ The Chicago Kid, Ginuwine, City Girls, Lucky Daye, PJ Morton, Luke James, Mase and JoJo are among some of the artists to perform at the festival's Superlounges, which will give fans an opportunity to see their favorite artists in a more intimate setting. The Playlist, Golden Era, Hot Right Now lounges and more will honor different genres and movements. 

Food Experiences With Big Freedia & More

NOLA icon Big Freedia won't just be performing, she'll also be a part of one of the many food events the fest has lined up for attendants. The Southern city is known for its culinary richness and you won't have to leave the Superdome to taste and learn from some of the most recognized chefs. Among the many food evets, fans can learn to remix dinner classics and create other yummy treats with special guests Big Freedia, Chefs Kenneth Temple, Ashley Jonique, Melissan Hinton and more. 

Through ESSENCE's Passport25, the fest will also give event goers access to perks some of the finest black-owned restuarants in the city. 

Afterdark Series

The party doesn't end when the last performer steps offstage. Essence's Afterdark Series are concerts and events at Republic NOLA, Howlin' Wolf and the Orpheum Theater bringing intimate groups of artists together for performances. From Women In Hip Hop, ESSENCE Underground to Beats & Bounce and Reggae X Afrobeats with acts like Estelle, Young M.A., Trina, Rhapsody, DJ Jermaine, Blackstreet, and more, you can expect even more exlusive access to local music and beyond. 

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PJ Morton To Record Live Album With JoJo, BJ The Chicago Kid & More At Essence Fest 2019

PJ Morton

Photo by Alex Smith


PJ Morton To Record Live Album With JoJo, BJ The Chicago Kid & More At Essence Fest 2019

Taking place in New Orleans on Friday, July 5 at the Superdome Playlist Superlounge, the mysterious live recording will also feature collabs with Pell, The Hamiltones and more

GRAMMYs/Jul 5, 2019 - 09:00 pm

P.J. Morton, who won his first-ever GRAMMY for Best Traditional R&B Performance ("How Deep Is Your Love") at the 61st GRAMMY Awards, is gearing up to record a live album at Essence Festival 2019

The New Orleans native, who is also the keyboardist for pop-rock greats Maroon 5, plans to host the live recording tonight (Friday, July 5) from 9:15pm–10:15pm the Superdome's Playlist Superlounge.

And don't worry, he'll be bringing some special guests for the experience: JoJo, BJ The Chicago Kid, Pell, The Hamiltones and more are slated to join Morton.

"Big announcement!!" he tweeted in February. "I'm doing a LIVE ALBUM RECORDING AT @essencefest !! I’m bringing @wolfjames @iamjojo @thehamiltonesnc @themamamiax @pellyeah and a bunch more!! Can everybody just come to New Orleans that weekend so y’all can sing super loud with me??"

The live project will follow Morton's Gumbo Unplugged (Live), which was nominated last year for the Best R&B Album GRAMMY.