Oh Essence Festival…one of the best trips I have had to New Orleans and I have been here quite a few times. Since I was on a girls trip of six people, we naturally didn’t make it to see every performer on time, but the ones we did see, made it all worth the money…and parking/walking. On our 3 day trip we got to see what NOLA has to offer. NOLA is such a rich, historic, and mystical city that honestly every time I leave I still feel as though there was a stone I left un-turned.

Traveling there by plane took away the extra stress of driving. We arrived mid-day Saturday so traffic wasn’t bad leaving the airport. Surprisingly taking an uber or lyft was not an extremely long ride either. (Just don’t let the driver try to take the long ways around the city to charge you more.) I had to kindly point out to my driver that he had made a complete circle before actually dropping us off at the Superdome. But..I digress, the trip was amazing.

Other pro-tips: Buy your Essence Festival tickets on Groupon, thank me later. Uber/Lyft everywhere. Ladies, don’t wear heels. Even the walk up the hill to the Superdome is a workout.  Drink water, all day and night; you will need it. Get to the expo early for more free goodies.

Let’s get to the food, fun, & festival:

The Food

Of course we got beignets. I feel like this is an automatic go when in NOLA; so I’ll spare the details. One of my favorite spots in NOLA to eat is at Oceana. It’s right off Bourbon Street so that’s quick access when you want to head straight to the fun after dinner. Being the foodie that I am, I had to try a little of everything, so my friends and I ended up splitting all of our meals.

The Fun

Bourbon Street is always a must when in NOLA but don’t neglect the other areas of downtown as well. Hand grenades are a little overrated to me but, if it’s your first time in NOLA, you should definitely try one. Daiquiris can be found almost anywhere in the city because they are so lenient on their liquor laws but ask a local for the best spot. Some places are better than others.

The Festival

The concerts and expos made the festival equally as fun and was an experience. On the expo side, there were tons of black owned business selling anything from dashikis to paintings to ankh bracelets although I will say, most of these items were  overpriced. Save your money and use it on the numerous vendors on the street. I mean $90 for an kente cloth bowtie, let’s be serious. I can get an entire kente cloth unit for $90 from a local Houston vendor. But hey, rumble on. The best part of the expo was that everything was literally in one large area, you can listen to Mario perform while shopping or getting your beauty consultation in the beauty and hair area. We stood in a short line to sign up for discounted Essence beauty boxes by also taking a short survey. Who doesn’t love leaving with tons of hair and beauty product samples? Those who decided to sign up for the essence beauty box received their first box free, yay me! Plus, we were able to choose between a free lash/eyeshadow application or quick hair makeover. Check out what’s in my first Essence Beauty Box…

Now to the concert. Since there are so many artists performing, you can really get to the concert whenever you feel like it. On day 2, we didn’t get to the Superdome until 9:30 p.m.  just in time for Charlie Wilson and Mariah Carey end the night. On day 3, we unfortunately missed Kendrick Lamar (sends my friends side eyes) but we made it for the ever so entertaining Puff Daddy & The Family which was a show!

Charlie Wilson

Essence Festival

Charlie Wilson was sooo good. I like solo Charlie Wilson but I love GAP Band Charlie Wilson. Luckily, he gives the best of both worlds! After running through several of his solo songs such as “There Goes My Baby” and “Charlie, Last Name Wilson,” he gave us a quick 15 minute praise and worship session where he was transparent about overcoming his drug and alcohol abuse. After sharing his testimony, we got to jam along to two GAP Band’s greatest hits including “Yearning for your Love,” and ending the night with “Outstanding.”

Overall Performance Rating: 8.5

Mariah Carey

Essence Festival

Mariah, oh Mariah. When I tell you that Mariah Carey is my all time favorite singer, I mean that with all of my heart so you know it’s going to pain me to give a not so stellar review but not for the reasons you think. Despite the backlash she received for the 2014 Rockefeller Christmas special, for her not so great performance, she actually came out singing rather well. She didn’t sing most of her choruses but she saved all of her energy to show us she still has it on the high notes. If she was lip singing, she fooled me.

She came out carried on stage while singing “Shake It Off,”  before her performance was overshadowed by awkward seemingly unplanned reunions with Jermaine Dupre and Da Brat, random monologues she made alluding to her ill preparation and rehearsal on stage, and maybe even hinting that she really didn’t want to be there. I never knew she was THAT petty. So after her 3rd outfit change within a matter of 30 minutes, we left, but not before hearing her sing my favorite “Honey.” Overall, she’s still got it… for the most part.

Overall Performance Rating: 8.

Puff Daddy & The Family

Essence Festival

Last but certainly not least was Puff Daddy & the Family. The above picture says it all, look how much fun Puff Daddy and Mase are having. I was not expecting to be THIS entertained. Honestly, Puff gets a lot of backlash from us but he’s a solid  businessman and has really mentored so many artists.

Who we should also be giving more credit to is Mase. Who knew Mase had so many hits? He literally carried Bad Boy for sometime. I had a great time rocking out to all of Bad Boys greatest hits. Faith Evans KILLED it. I mean she looked the exact same fine hot red-head that she was back in the 90s with an equally amazing voice. 112 also surprised me and had the crowd swooning over “Cupid” and jamming to “Peaches N Cream.” Unbeknownst to me, French Montana is now with Bad Boy so he came out and performed a few of his songs with a surprise performance with Fabulous.  Of course, no Puff Daddy performance would be complete without a few odes to The Notorious B.I.G.  and ending the night with a unison performance of  “I’ll Be Missing You.”

Overall Performance Rating: 9 (only because I wish it was longer than the 2 hours it already was)

Until we meet again next year, bye NOLA! Laissez les bon temps rouler.