It's time to start planning your nightly itinerary for the 2023 Essence Festival of Culture.
The festival has finalized the roster for its nightly concerts in the Caesars Superdome and also put single-night tickets on sale.
The full lineup reveals just how fully committed this year’s Essence is to celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, even beyond this being the first time female rappers will close all three nights of Superdome concerts.
Ms. Lauryn Hill tops the bill on Friday, June 30, with a celebration of the 25th anniversary of her landmark “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.”
That same night, deejay and beatboxer Doug E. Fresh will curate a hip-hop, 50th-anniversary commemoration featuring Big Daddy Kane, EPMD, KRS-One and Slick Rick.
Additional performers on opening night include Ari Lennox, Jagged Edge, Tems and Tobe Nwigwe. Deon Cole will serve as host that night, with DJ Clark Kent also helping out.
Missy Elliott, who previously performed at Essence in 2015, 2018 and 2019, is top-billed on Saturday, July 1. That night also features a “special performance” by Jill Scott.
The Saturday night hip-hop anniversary celebration, titled “The South Got Something to Say,” is curated by Jermaine Dupri. It features Big Boi, Gucci Mane, Lil Jon, Ludacris and T.I.
Also, Ice Cube tops a West Coast hip-hop showcase that also includes DJ Quik, E-40, Ice-T, JJ Fad, Lady of Rage and Yo-Yo.
Additional Saturday night performers include Coco Jones and Monica.
Saturday’s hosts are Affion Crockett and Spice Adams, with Kid Capri serving as the evening’s deejay.
Megan Thee Stallion headlines Sunday, July 2 with special guest Wizkid.
Angie Martinez hosts a “50 Years of Women in Hip-Hop” showcase featuring Eve, New Orleans’ own Mia X, Remy Ma, Salt-N-Pepa and Trina.
Kizz Daniel and Muni Long are among the additional performers.
Janelle James is the Sunday night host while DJ Spinderella of Salt-N-Pepa handles the deejaying duties.
Single-night tickets start at $80 plus service charges via Ticketmaster.
Ongoing renovations to the Superdome have eliminated the spaces traditionally used for the secondary "superlounge" stages. In response to the loss of the superlounges, Essence has enhanced the main stage programming with comedians and deejays between the major acts.
Founded in 1995 as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Essence Magazine, the Essence Fest soon established itself as a cornerstone of New Orleans' summer tourism season.
The Essence Festival has expanded its footprint in New Orleans over the years. It now encompasses much more than its core three nights of concerts at the Superdome and three days of empowerment seminars, product promotions and other daytime events at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
New Orleans has hosted every Essence Fest except for 2006, when it moved to Houston while the Superdome underwent Hurricane Katrina-related repairs.
In 2020 and 2021, Essence was staged virtually as an online-only event because of the COVID pandemic.
Essence Fest's in-person comeback in 2022 was the first produced under the auspices of a new regime at Essence Communications, the festival's New York-based parent company.
Last fall, Essence Communications appointed Hakeem Holmes, a 30-year-old New Orleans native now based in New York, the company's first vice president for the Essence Festival of Culture. In that newly created position, he is the parent company’s point person for all things Essence Fest.