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Essence Music Festival

The Essence Music Festival is one of the biggest parties in New Orleans every year. Usually scheduled for the weekend of July 4th, the festival draws huge crowds for both its music and its celebration of African-American culture. Essence Fest draws the best of both national and local acts, with a strong representation of both the commercial sounds of rap, hip-hop, R&B, gospel and the local flavor of brass bands, jazz, and blues.

Essence Fest began in 1995, and has since stayed in New Orleans, except for 2006 in the aftermath Hurricane Katrina. During that time, the festival has continued to grow. The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau reported that approximately 400,000 people were in attendance for 2010’s Essence Music Festival (compared to approximately 1 million visitors for Mardi Gras 2010).

2013 Artist Line-Up

The Essence Music Festival delivers major headline acts every year. This year's acts will include:

Main Stage

  • Brandy 
  • Maxwell
  • New Edition
  • Charlie Wilson
  • Jill Scott
  • Keyshia Cole
  • LL Cool J

Super Lounge

  • Anthony David
  • Big Daddy Kane
  • Blackstreet
  • Bridget Kelly
  • F Stokes
  • Jody Watley
  • Kourtney Heart
  • Leela James
  • Les Nubians
  • Mia Borders
  • Mint Condition

Essence Music Festival Empowerment Experience

Essence is much more than just a series of concerts. At the Essence Music Festival Empowerment Experience, attendees have the opportunity to interact with artists, experts and speakers at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

At 2011's Experience, attendees were able to meet the producers of "Family" and audition for a chance to appear on the show with host Steve Harvey. Essence also hosted "Transforming Your Community" with Reverend Al Sharpton, Soledad O'Brien and author Terry McMillan. On Sunday, the festival even presented an "All-Star Gospel Salute to CeCe Winans and Marvin Sapp," a time of praise and worship.

Several other authors and speakers were in attendance for a weekend packed with special events.

R&B Star

2011 saw the introduction of a brand-new element to the Essence Festival: R&B star Pebbles, the former producer of R&B/hip-hop group TLC, served as host and one of the show's talent judges. Having spent years in the record industry honing artists' abilities, Pebbles brought a strong understanding of what it takes to make it as a star.

The grand prize winner of the competition was selected to perform at the festival and received a single song deal with Upfront Megatainment/Universal, a one-year contract with KWL Management powered by Kevin Liles, and a feature in a future issue of Essence Magazine.