Kendrick Lamar Will Be Alright at Essence

Sunday night, Kendrick Lamar will close the Essence Music Festival in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It’s a time slot that has been punishing in recent years as such party-friendly hitmakers as Earth, Wind & Fire and Lionel Ritchie struggled to hold audiences that had seen the artists they came for—often Charlie Wilson or Mary J. Blige—and had to go to work in the morning.

You Don't Know Janelle Monae

Janelle Monáe is noticeably still. I’m shown into a hotel room to interview her and she is poised in a chair, at rest but composed. She’s in her trademark black and white—black hat on the back of her head behind her pompadour, black leather motorcycle jacket, black pants with white stripes down the side, and black and white heels. In that outfit, the red broken heart on her white T-shirt and pistachio green nail polish on her toes might as well be searchlights. 

Nile Rodgers and Prince Make Plans for Essence

[Updated] In his book Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny, Nile Rodgers tells the story of his ascent from guitarist in the house band at the Apollo to Chic--the biggest self-contained band of the disco era--to a successful career as a producer in the '80s, when he recorded David Bowie's Let's Dance

Prince, Womack, and the Essence of Essence

[Updated] I was sad to learn that soul legend Bobby Womack passed away Friday. I interviewed him for almost an hour before he played Jazz Fest this year. That story is online here, and in it he denies that he was living with Alzheimer's Disease, and contended that a reporter who didn't get a joke started that rumor.

This Week's Soundtrack

1. "Daylight" - Bobby Womack

Essence News: A Prince Preview?

Prince isn't on tour, but that hasn't stopped him from playing one-off shows like the 2 1/2-hour jam he played last Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Backed by a 20-piece version of the New Power Generation that included horns, he played material from the breadth of his career, favoring deep cuts over hits until he got to the encore.