The 20th Anniversary 2014 Essence Festival Brings Out The Stars! Prince and More Headline

Photo Credit: Maya Washington

Essence hit it big again this year for their 20th anniversary. The Essence Festival's 20th anniversary set a record for annual attendance, with more than 550,000 participants celebrating four days of R&B music, community, and black culture between the New Orleans' convention center and the Mercedes Benz Superdome. The festival attracted 10,000 more people than the 2013 festival that was closed out by a sold out Beyonce encore performance.

Essence Communications Inc. president Michelle Ebanks said she woke up to a great sense of pride following the 2014 Essence Festival celebration.

Over 80 musical performances highlighted by Prince, Lionel Richie, Charlie Wilson, Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, The Roots and more highlighted the festival. The convention center also hosted more than 150 speakers addressing everything from solutions to crime and violence to growing entrepreneurs.

Some of our AllHipHop team volunteered with 200 young girls and boys that participated in the #YesWeCode initiative that Prince partnered with over the weekend. The initiative targets low opportunity children and teaches them how to code and create their own apps that can change the community.

Essence executives thanked Mayor Mitch Landrieu for the city's ongoing partnership. Both the city and Essence stated that they are committed to locking the festival into a new deal.

Thursday night Trey Songz, Nas, Jazmine Sullivan and more kicked off the Essence Festival weekend!

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Photo credit: Josh Brasted/Getty Images

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R&B crooner Trey wooed the ladies as usual with his vocals, solid band, and handsome looks. His lead guitarist led some amazing solos as well. Songz, eager to please, came out of his t-shirt at last for his female fans. Rapper Nas, Thursday's headliner, performed an entertaining set as fans helped him celebrate the 20th anniversary of his debut album Illmatic. He remarked that he loved ESSENCE for recognizing the influence of Hip Hop. Jazmine Sullivan sang her entire heart out running through a couple of her hits that reminded fans why they fell in love with the Philly native in the first place.

Friday night belonged to LEGEND PRINCE! Prince brought the house down as he performed hit after hit after hit during his 24 song set. Halfway into his set he stated, "That was just he sound check." and "Do you know how many hits I have?" Prince delivered an electrifying performance then left the stage abruptly. Just as fans wondered and worried it could be over, they joined forces to chant "Purple Rain, Purple Rain." The singer then returned to the stage to close out with his 1984 hit "Purple Rain." The main stage also turned into a funk royalty jam when Prince and Nile Rodgers teamed up to cover David Bowie's "Let's Dance."

90s R&B legends SWV held down the Superlounge on Friday performing hits like "Right Here (Human Nature). SWV is one the world’s top selling female R&B groups of all time, and over the weekend they reminded fans why!

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The Queen of R&B and Hip Hop soul, Mary J. Blige brought down the house from main stage on Saturday, performing all of her classic hits including "Real Love", "You Remind Me", "Not Gon' Cry", "I'm Going Down" and more. Blige rocked the dome with effortless precision. Fans were out of their seats dancing and singing during the entire set. Blige represented nearly all of her 12 albums found in her discography this night. The powerfully raw singer closed with her hit "Family Affair." Fans rocked and jammed all the way out of the Superdome.

90′s R&B crooner Tevin Campbell hit the stage of the Superlounge performing his hits "Can We Talk", "Always in My Heart", and "SHHH (Break It Down)." Campbell proved that he "still has it" in two ways: vocals, and the fact that he packed out the entire room of the Superlounge. When he began singing crowd favorite, “Can We Talk” he asked the audience to let him sing his song, and for them to come in on the hook.

90s favorite, R&B quartet 112, held down the Superlounge Saturday bringing the heat as they performed some of their most classic dance tracks like "It's Over Now."

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Marsha Ambrosius
killed the Ford Super Lounge performing her hit song "Late Nights/Early Mornings" while mashing it up with a cover of Prince's "Sex On Fire" as well as her new song "Friends and Lovers."

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Philly's own Jill Scott opened her set with her song "Gimme".

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Sunday Uncle Charlie Wilson and Lionel Richie held down the main stage in classic legend form. Uncle Charlie showed fans once again that he is a true performer. The music industry's famous uncle is 61 but you wouldn't know it from the way he shows up and shows out every time he hits the Essence main stage. At one point Wilson and crew hit the stage to perform in suits embellished with LED lights. Wilson's energy level had fans in awe. It seemed as if the dancers had to keep up with him. 61 is the new 20. Uncle Charlie brought the crowd to the dance floor, to the bedroom, and to church.

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Lionel Richie had a nice set, although it was tough to follow Charlie Wilson. His band gave some pretty solid guitar solos. Richie proceeded to give a nice run of Commodores favorites that were ultimately the highlight of the show. Richie pleased the crowd with "Zoom," "Brick House" and "Hello" as well.

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Erykah Badu also helped Essence Festival celebrate their 20th anniversary by performing her hits like "On & On" and "Next Life Time." The neo-soul chanteuse boomed with the backing of her live band and even kicked a freestyle for fans. After jokingly saying goodnight to her fans, the soul singer eased into her classics "I Choose You", "Next Lifetime", "Apple Tree", "Love of My Life", and Tyrone.

Fans were also treated to the likes of performances by Day 26, Doug E. Fresh, Jagged Edge, Elle Varner, Estelle, Sevyn Streeter, Kelly Price, Liv Warfield, Michelle Williams, Naughty By Nature, August Alsina, Raheem DeVaughn, and more in the Superlounges.