Saturday night (July 1) at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans was especially significant. Mary J. Blige, one of the event’s most frequent performers, had been given full authority on the curation of an all-female list of artists for the evening — not only at the main stage, but all over the Mercedes Benz SuperDome, including all four SuperLounges upstairs.
The theme of the night was “Strength of a Woman,” inspired by Blige’s most recent album, which many are calling her best body of work in years. She was sure to include all genres, as well: Jhene Aiko for the younger crowd that appreciates an airy R&B tune, Remy Ma for those who just want to hear a few clever bars. She added Teyana Taylor for those who like their R&B on the “poppy” side, Monica and Jazmine Sullivan for that ‘90s R&B vibe and Lalah Hathaway for a soulful, hearty layer.
Check out highlights from day two of the Essence Music Festival below.
Jill Scott Leaves “The Way” to Her Fans
There are some songs that every performer knows will hit hard with an audience of devoted fans. Jill Scott is no different. She had already gotten concertgoers warmed up with a drum-heavy remix of “Golden,” but by the time the live band had started playing the music for fan favorite “The Way,” she literally did nothing but ad-libs. The singer/songwriter stood center stage in printed palazzo pants and a matching kimono, her hair was big and pulled to one side and she glowed, grinning brightly as the crowd recited the entire first verse with no help from her.
Remy Ma & Papoose Make Love on Stage… Kinda
Married rap couple Remy Ma and Papoose were upstairs in the Essence SuperLounge going back and forth in the best way onstage. Amidst a flood of oohs and aahs from the crowd, they played up the happiness between them — which was nice. “I love you,” Papoose said, out of nowhere. “I love you, too,” Remy replied and started to jump back into what she’d been saying to the crowd. “I love you more,” he said. “We always argue about this: who loves who more,” she said with a laugh. “I feel like the person who loves the other person more shouldn’t cut them off when they’re talking.”
Teyana’s Abs Draw Fans
Teyana Taylor was at the Coca-Cola SuperLounge giving the crowd exactly what they came for: complicated dance moves and a little R&B. She ticked, twerked and bounced as “Freak On” played in the background. Those in attendance were mesmerized, and one young woman walked out with a friend who commented incredulously, ”And she just had a baby?”
Mary J Blige Gets Back to Basics
The conversation in regard to Mary J. Blige is always whether or not she makes “better” music when going through drama. Or is it just that the fans receive it differently? Either way, concertgoers were enthralled once MJB took the stage.
Initially, fans wondered if she would refer to the issues she’s been having with her estranged husband, who was recently awarded spousal support even after news broke of his infidelities. Blige channeled her younger self last night — the Mary that worked with Puff Daddy on What’s the 411?, her debut album. Her hair was up in a high ponytail and she rocked a leather crop top with sequined camo pants and mirrored shades. She had attitude for the first half of her set. By the second half, she had softened up just a little and showcased some vulnerability.
“You watched me go up and crash down and struggle, but God is my strength and my everything,” she said to the full stadium. Her hurt seemed palpable. She mentioned being willing to set her husband free, “even if I gotta pay for it.” And during her performance of “No More Drama,” Blige dropped to a squat in her stilettos and bounced up and down until finally dropping flat on her back, staying there for a few moments. The crowd cheered, equally expressing contempt for Mary’s ex, but somehow simultaneously happy to have their MJB back.