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It’s Going Down With Brandy, Maxwell, Jill Scott, LL Cool At This Year’s Essence Music Festival

The dead of winter hasn’t hit NYC yet but the lineup for the Essence Music Festival has us dreaming of warmer weather and beignets. Every year the EMF is held in New Orleans on Fourth of July weekend to celebrate black music and culture. Brandy, Jill Scott, Maxwell and Keyshia Cole are scheduled to hit the stage for the 19th annual event that takes over the city for four days.

Eight stages will rock with a myriad of artists including LL Cool J, New Edition and Charlie Wilson; and crowds will gather around smaller stages for Mint Condition, Blackstreet, Big Daddy Kane and others. Essence Music Festival is a big deal–”one of the most important forums for non-hip-hop black music and culture” according to the New York Times.

Last summer VH1 flew to New Orleans for the food, music and culture of the city and event. One of The Top 5 Most Entertaining Moments was Dru Hill reuniting on stage! How’s that for a trip down memory lane? Summer, we miss you. Come again soon.

Jill Scott, Keyshia Cole and Brandy to Headline 2013 Essence Festival [New York Times]

[Photo: Getty Images]

by (@lindseyweber)

From Last Night’s Soul Train Awards All You Need Are Miguel And Elle Varner

You might not have caught The Soul Train Awards on Centric last night. In a flurry of Sunday night programming (plus Liz & Dick Lifetime!) it would’ve been easy to skip the award show dedicated to awarding the best in hip-hop and R&B. If you did choose another route, here’s your tl;dw (That’s “too long, didn’t watch.”) rundown: Cedric the Entertainer hosted, Anthony Hamilton did “Lovely Day”, Leah LaBelle did Teena Marie’s “Square Biz”, Fantasia paid tribute to Aretha with “Don’t Play That Song For Me”. There was a New Edition tribute (in which Bobby Brown failed to thank his departed former wife Whitney Houston?), Keyshia Cole performed “Enough of No Love” from her new album Woman to Woman, and X-Factor winner Marcus Canty did Luther Vandross‘ “Never Too Much”. On the hip-hop side, 2 Chainz was there. Naturally.

Perhaps in the strangest moment, Tyrese‘s “Stay” won Song Of The Year, despite being released independently from his album, Open Invitation. It beat out John Legend, Trey Songz, Estelle, Wale, AND Usher–making it a true underdog. Tyrese most likely knew this, stating in his acceptance speech that today’s R&B is “insecure, since everyone is doing house and techno music” (a weird nod to Usher, perhaps?) But tonight, he continued, “Real R&B is winning”.

And now for the best performances…

by (@Lacezilla)

Mary J. Blige’s Emotional Set Crowns Essence Music Festival’s Second Night

For the fifth time in as many years, Mary J. Blige graced the Essence Music Festival stage last night in New Orleans. Galvanizing her legion of ravenous fans during a set that followed main-stage performances from Tank, Mary Mary, Ledisi and comedian Kevin Hart, even the ushers were two-stepping unapologetically; in between performing a number of hits that spanned her entire twenty-year career, Blige also made time to unleash covers of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” and Charlie Wilson’s “Outstanding” for the Mercedes Benz Superdome crowd.

When the beat dropped for songs like “Real Love,” “Family Affair,” “Just Fine,” and “Not Gon’ Cry,” audience members took to their feet and assisted the sequin-clad star with lyrics and adlibs alike, creating an energetic exchange with their heroine that was, on more than one occasion, acknowledged by a grateful, “so pleased” Mary J. Blige. Read more…