Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige lead 2015 Essence Festival lineup | EW.com

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Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige lead 2015 Essence Festival lineup

(Josh Brasted/FilmMagic)

UPDATE: Essence Festival has announced its night-by-night lineup. The festival will open on Thursday, July 2, with the What Now? Tour, featuring Kevin Hart. Trey Songz and Lecrae will also perform. Charlie Wilson, India.Aire, Kem, and a still-secret group of “New Orleans’ finest” will play the mainstage on Friday, July 3. The festival’s Independence Day performers will include Usher, Missy Elliott, Erykah Badu, and Common. Essence Festival newcomer Kendrick Lamar will close out the multi-day event on Sunday, July 5, sharing a bill with Mary J. Blige and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, among others.

Essence Festival—which had the pressure on after providing a Fourth of July with Prince last year—is taking over the Mercedez-Benz Superdome in New Orleans July 2-5 with a massive first-round lineup that includes Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, Common, India.Aria in headlining spots and support billing from Trombone Shorty, Erykah Badu, and SZA. Only Lamar is making his first Essence appearance. Kevin Hart will also be there, headlining the opening “Now Playing” concert, which features Nas, K. Michelle, and Trey Songz. 

The festival has also announced a speaker lineup that includes fitness guru Shaun T, Reverend Al Sharpton, along with actress Lynn Whitman and singer-songwriter daughter Grace Gibson and more will be heading down south for the holiday weekend.