If you follow my social media feeds you may have wondered when on earth did I actually sleep while in New Orleans! I didn't. But here is the first of several recaps of the shows and happenings during the 4 day party with a purpose. Back in October the folks at ESSENCE said that plans were already underway for topping every previous EMF for the 20th anniversary. The Now Playing Concert was a start. This added on a fourth day of concerts of an already jammed pack weekend. Unfortunately I missed Jesse Boykins III, I am hoping I get a chance to see him, live, very soon. Jazmine Sullivan is back! She gave us some of her hits 'Bust Your Windows' and 'Lions, Tigers and Bears". She took a break to tend to, well, life! We certainly can't blame her. Expect Jaz's third album to release later this year. I was curious to see how K Michelle would rock the Superdome and she definitely held her own! She has been busy behind the scenes as well.She will star in her own reality show; one that shows "her real life and her real friends ", her life as an entertainer and mom. Expect a musical (think R.Kelly's trapped in the closet) around November and a full album from her. I was able to catch Trey Songz and per usual he gets the crowd going. He remarked that since the Thursday audience was younger than the usual (he has performed at 5 ESSENCE Festivals, typically a Friday or Saturday) kept it very upbeat. He did songs (no pun intended) such as 'Say aah' and 'Na Na' from his latest album. Trey's ability to engage with the audience makes it obvious why he keeps being invited back to New Orleans. His new album TRIGGA is in stores now and absolutely worth the download! Nas closed out the show and there wasn't a person not on their feet as he celebrated 20 years since the release of Illimatic. With the audience in the Superdome coming from various places in the gulf coast to New York City everyone got to hear some of their favorites from Mr. Jones. He remarked that he loved ESSENCE for recognizing the influence of Hip Hop. He was elated that he was invited to celebrate 20 years of Music in New Orleans. Here is a snippet of what he had to say of being at the 20th annual Festival: I am not sure if the Now Playing concert will be a mainstay in the coming years but it was awesome! It allowed a different audience to experience live Music on the MainStage. Stay tuned for the rest of my ESSENCE Festival recaps/ Follow #cokessencefest, #essencefest and #20years20stages hashtags as people are still talking about the weekend! Performance pictures below, photo credit Chris Mitchell. All other images are my own.