New Orleans rapper Juvenile was not happy to not be included in the roster of the 2023 Essence Festival of Culture.
This year’s Essence Fest, which includes three nights of concerts in the Caesars Superdome from June 30 to July 2, celebrates the 50th anniversary of hop-hop.
To that end, the Superdome concert rosters are loaded with rappers from Atlanta and elsewhere. They include headliners Missy Elliott, Ms. Lauryn Hill and Megan Thee Stallion, plus Doug E. Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, EPMD, KRS-One, Slick Rick, Jermaine Dupri, Big Boi, Gucci Mane, Lil Jon, Ludacris, T.I., Ice Cube, Ice-T, Eve and Salt-N-Pepa.
The only rapper on the bill from New Orleans, the festival’s host city, was Mia X.
On June 1, Juvenile reposted the Essence Festival lineup and added a question: “How is Essence doing 50 years of hip-hop in New Orleans without me???”
As it turns out, it isn't.
On Wednesday evening, Juvenile tweeted that he's been added to the Essence Fest evening concert lineup on June 30: "Hip-Hop 50 without Juvie? Not a chance. June 30th, NOLA we live!"
Also on Wednesday, Essence Fest released a lengthy statement emphasizing its connection to New Orleans via the various Essence events staged throughout the city.
They include Family Day at Armstrong Park, where hip-hop, the statement said, "will be the main event throughout."
The statement also made clear that surprise appearances, such as Ms. Lauryn Hill and Lil Wayne popping up unannounced at the Superdome last year, will again be part of the show.
"As our community knows, it is tradition that while we advertise many experiences in advance, we also incorporate surprise moments designed to deliver one-of-a-kind experiences that create life-long memories....
"Whether it be the celebration of Hip Hop femcees like New Orleans native Mia X or special surprise performances from local Hip-Hop artists that should not be missed, along with our all-Crescent City musical line-up during our Family Day celebration, the city of New Orleans and state of Louisiana will be well represented including Juvenile."
His June 1 social media posts criticizing Essence appear to have been deleted.
Doing Donna Fest, Tiny Desk concert?
Meanwhile, he's also promoting his own Donna Fest, scheduled for the same weekend as Essence.
Donna Fest – named for his wife – is slated for Sunday, July 2 at Urban South Brewery, 1645 Tchoupitoulas St. Urban South, of course, is the locally based brewery that released Juvie Juice, a spiked blend of iced tea and lemonade with an animated rendering of Juvenile on the can. Juvenile has been busy promoting Juvie Juice since its spring launch; his Bayou Boogaloo performance in May took place on the Juvie Juice Stage.
At Donna Fest, Juvenile plans to perform with a live band. The bill also includes his former Cash Money Records producer, Mannie Fresh, Cash Money co-founder Bryan “Birdman” Williams, the Rebirth Brass Band and Juvenile’s son, Young Juve.
Donna Fest is also a “color explosion war,” during which attendees will cover one another with colored powder. Tickets are $25.
Born Terius Gray, Juvenile released his landmark "400 Degreez" album via Cash Money Records in November 1998. Certified for sales of more than 4 million copies, it yielded the hits "Ha" and "Back That Azz Up." The latter song, also released as a clean version as "Back That Thang Up," largely introduced New Orleans rap style known as bounce to a national audience and endures as a cultural phenomenon.
In other recent Juvenile news, in April he agreed to perform a “Tiny Desk Concert” for National Public Radio after his fans retweeted a post about the possibility 10,000 times. When initially asked about doing a “Tiny Desk” performance, he professed not to know what a “Tiny Desk” was.
If and when that taping will take place is not clear.
On June 4, Jon Batiste posted of picture of himself and Juvenile on an airplane, apparently departing New Orleans, with the caption, “A quick flight to make history with one of the all time greatest rappers, chart topping, highest selling artists of all time. U Understand?!! JUVENILE THE GREAT.”
Honored by legislature
Juvenile was recently honored by the Louisiana House of Representatives. Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, sponsored resolution No. 223, which commended the rapper for his “musical and cultural contributions.”
The resolution stipulated that he “has transcended cultural borders by spreading the vibrant musical style and culture of New Orleans with his timeless hit, ‘Back That Thang Up,’ which is the go-to Bounce anthem at celebrations across the globe and has garnered hundreds of millions of album sales, downloads, and 'thangs' backed up.”
The resolution by Landry, who represents House District 91 in New Orleans, also noted that Juvie Juice is brewed in the 91st district and extended “sincerest wishes that he continue to prosper in all of his endeavors, both in Louisiana and beyond.”