Essence Music Festival 2015 Day Four: Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Ma$e & More [EXCLUSIVE]
For the final day of the Essence Music Festival, there was an interesting crowd in attendance, demographically speaking. The four-day concert series -- in its 21st year -- has always been centered on bringing music lovers together, from every age group and cultural background. However, on Sunday night (July 5), this mishmash was most definitely in effect.
From Teedra Moses to Lianne La Havas to Ma$e then Kendrick Lamar, it seemed that every kind of hip-hop and R&B fan was rubbing elbows with each other because they had to. The magic in all that eccentric scheduling is that it actually worked and fans left the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans satisfied, which means they'll be eager to do it all over again next year. Here are 10 highlights featuring Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Ma$e and more from day four of the 2015 Essence Music Festival.
Within moments, a bright Sunday afternoon yielded to ominous clouds and a torrential downpour lasted a few hours, cutting into the opening acts at the Essence Music Festival. The press covering the shows were in attendance but barely anyone else was there to watch the scheduled acts like Floetry take the stage. And that was a shame because it was dope to see Marsha Ambrosius and Natalie Stewart together again, sounding just as great as they did at their very start on albums like Floetic.
Teedra Moses was in rare form last night at the Walmart For the Love of R&B Superlounge -- after all, she was back home in her native New Orleans. The singer graced the stage and seemed like she was among friends during her performance. She wasted no time getting into the bulk of her 2004 classic LP, Complex Simplicity, and touched on the track "Caught Up." Although it's a mid-tempo song, Moses managed to arch her back in her fitted black mini-dress and bounce while belting the lyrics out. "Go Teedra!" the crowd chanted. After her set, Kelly Price, who was hosting the stage that night, gave Moses her just due. "That girl got a set of pipes," she enthused. "She can sing! And if you know anything about me, you know I love my singers."
In a UCLA cropped tee and white sneakers, TDE's SZA took the stage over at the Ford Hot Right Now Superlounge. She jumped right into her set, dipping and sliding all over the stage. Her dedicated fans hollered at her in a sign of approval before she even started singing. After "Child's Play," she expressed her annoyance with time restrictions. "Are you guys having a good time?" she asked, brow furrowed. The crowd yelped. "I hate being rushed," she continued. "I usually just wanna chill and hang and talk. F---!" The New Jersey native moved into "Hiiijack" and checked on the time again. "How much time do we have? Ten [minutes]? That's two songs," she said, breathless from the jumping and dipping. "We're gonna do 'Babylon' and we're gonna do, um, 'Ice Moon'?" The audience went crazy at the mention of the latter. "Oh," she said, teasing. "Y'all wanna do 'Ice Moon?' Shout out to my day one n----s for wanting it."
Lianne La Havas hit the stage just after SZA but her crowd was a tad bit different. The British singer-songwriter was somehow able to command the attention of everyone in the room before she even opened her mouth. Then when she started with "Unstoppable," you could hear a pin drop. Phones went up in the air to capture La Havas in her black strappy top and flowy white skirt but there wasn't a peep out of the crowd compared to SZA's set. It was so odd to see that I actually giggled and someone shot me a look as if to say, "Be quiet!" When she ended the song, one person hesitated then screamed, "Lianne, we love you!" The crowd chortled. The crooner responded in her cockneyed accent "Thank you." Then, not another sound until she finished the next song.
Ma$e's turn at the Coca Cola Superlounge was the first time all weekend that the audience was more than 50 percent male. The Harlem rhymer hasn't changed a bit as was evident while he ran through his Bad Boy smashes. The guys in attendance surely just wanted to dance to some good ol' hip-hop again. No one was hitting spins or anything but there was one man, seemingly in his 30s, getting down all by his lonesome to "Been Around the World." There were modified Diddy bops of course, which signified that people were having a great time.
Tweet performed at the Verizon Now Playing stage and shared a few things with her fans. First, that "Come to My Place" and "Smoking Cigarettes" are two of her favorite songs from her popular debut LP Southern Hummingbird. But it was when she got into the latter track that she stopped to say a little something. "This is my testimony," she said. "I was smoking so much, drinking every day at one point. Then I went to the doctor and they said that my lungs were only working at 20 percent and so I had to let it go..." Then she sang that last statement, again and again. The crowd hollered. "I'm sorry y'all," she sighed, smiling. "I had to. Because I'm still here and I got an album coming out."
As anticipated as Mary J. Blige's set was, there were quite a few festival attendees that vocalized their desire to catch another set at the same time, from a smaller artist. "It isn't that she isn't awesome onstage," one woman said. "But once you've seen one Mary show, you've seen them all." Then she did the Mary bop for her friend, who screamed in glee. Walking into the dome, someone else did it: "I don't know if I'm tryna see Mary." Her companion was like, "I mean, all she gon' be doing is this..." And he hit the Mary bop too. At least they give her props when it's due.
To be more than a few minutes late is crowd suicide at festivals and Robert Glasper was in a pickle on Sunday night. He was already tardy and then he was hoping to be in perfect tune once he finally did hit the stage, "Nah. F--- that," he said, thinking out loud -- and into the mic. "I need the sound to be right. I don't want it to get right in the middle of the show." Some fans clapped, others grumbled. "All this time we been waiting?" one said. "We gon' f--- around and miss Kendrick." After another few moments of tinkering with his keyboard, he admitted to having to improvise. Glasper brought Lalah Hathaway out to start "Cherish the Day" and proceeded to get into a full on jam session.
The final act of the evening was Compton's own Kendrick Lamar and not only did fans come out to witness him perform but the R&B superstars showed up as well. Goapele was spotted close to the front. Raheem DeVaughn was also close by, sporting his crown from the other night when he performed. Chrisette Michele showed up in the front too, gazing up at the stage as Lamar went in, hands folded under her chin. Even the husband and wife duo of Kindred the Family Soul were fully engaged in K. Dot's set.
A boy who looked about 10 or 11 years old was close to the front of the stage with his dad and presumably, his mom. As Lamar ran through "Money Trees," "Sing About Me" and "Poetic Justice" during day four of the 2015 Essence Music Festival, the tween boy bounced around. The rapper stopped to talk to him before getting into his next song. "I see you rocking out with me lil' man," Kendrick said, bending down to look the boy in the eyes. "Remove all negative energy from around you and remember to ignore those telling you you can't do what you want to do." The boy froze in disbelief it seemed, listening intently. "Keep them grades up, listen to your parents and keep believing in God and you'll be alright." It was the perfect lead-in into his newest smash "Alright." That kid will likely remember that moment for life.
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