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Defender Picks


Hola Nola: Vol XVII


Hola Nola, and hola the only way to celebrate our nation's 234th birthday: the epic Essence Music Festival. July 4th weekend marks the 16th Anniversary of this monster three-day concert and cultural seminar series (held in the Louisiana Superdome and Louis Armstrong Convention Center, respectively. 

Classy, stylish, and intellectual (and therefore badass), EMF is the largest African-American music and empowerment event in the country, and this year's lineup shimmers with seminarians such as Bill Cosby (who will pontificate on the pros and cons of both fuzzy sweaters and Jell-O), and musical muses from legends (Earth Wind and Fire, Gladys Knight) to underground lyricists (De La Soul), to contemporary top 40 royalty (Alicia Keys, Trey Songz, Keri Hilson), to the comeback of this generation, rhythm nation's own Janet motherf*cking Jackson. Any Questions? I thought not.

Essence need not pride itself on showcasing the hottest artists of the year, as these are names that come and go. Instead, this festival relishes in the music of those who consistently contribute to the core representation and flow of how Hip-Hop, Soul, and R&B shapes the development and growth of our nation.  Case in point: Monica. Who better embodies a lioness of independent success, one unstoppable banger after the next, ultimate radio monopolization? Well, maybe Monica has achieved none of these, but facing off against hit-n-run Brandy with 'The Boy is Mine' awards this 'Johnny 'Drama' a 'Vince' level of admiration (even though she gets schooled by Brandy's bite: 'When will you get the picture, you're the past I'm the future'...dealbreaker).  Next up is Hip-Hop pioneers Arrested Development, a group that not only beasted the cultivation of this budding genre, but helped define the '90s music video. 'Tennessee' is a melodically spit sermon, with a raw B&W music video to keep it real.


Kneeling before the Janet Jackson discography, I struggled to land on one track to present after cranking through her awe-inspiring collection. However, in studying her videos I did come to a unique realization and standpoint: JJ is most definitely a major influence and fashion icon for Gaga and her outlandish looks (talk amongst yourselves). Anyway, I'll indulge in some mainstream waters with 'Candle In The Wind' worthy 'Together Again', with a tribal Janet kicking it safari style (pre 'Ashes and Snow' exhibit) dancing with her neighboring lionsandtigersandbearsohmy. Janet is sure to raise the dome roof Friday night with a fire performance to close out opening night. Opening Saturday evening is 'Ms. Keri baby' Hilson, who puts pen to paper more often than her competitors, by ghostwriting rhymes for rapper Ludacris and popping corn for Queens B. Spizzy and Usher and Pop King Ciara.  Keri has walked the line with Weezy in 'Turnin' Me On', but her tag team with Timbaland prevails; 'The Way I Are' was hot enough to snag the reigns from Timbaland's previous ruler of the playground,  'Say It Right', feat. Promiscuous girl Nelly Furtado.


Bringing the six-pack to this picnic is lip-licking LL, who can still pull off a full track suit like it's 1991. 'I Need Love' demonstrates why 'Ladies Love Cool James', as his name represents, and Diplo recently reminded us of this gem by recycling it on his remix of Santigold's 'I'm a Lady.' Cool J's 'Goin' Back to Cali' is a A-Side track with a B-Side video, showing LL's more experimentally artistic side. Speaking of experimental, we arrive at Redman, who re-creates his hallucinogenic world with De La Soul in an ultra ghetto version of 'The Wiz' with 'Oooh'; this video is a ridiculous combination of the The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka, and How High, a non-cohesive amalgamation that somehow makes sense, kind of like Hawaiian pizza. And keeping it R&B, but with some Mid-Western flare (for definition of 'flare', see Jennifer Aniston in Office Space) is Saint Paul's Mint Condition with 'Breaking My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)'.  These boys spit the truth in flat tops, puffy sleeves, dangle earings, and gap teeth...hola the '90s.

In the words of douchebag Kanye West: 'Imma play this Gladys Knight, me and you gon get right'- this clip from the 66th episode of TV classic Soul Train captures a round of priceless line dancing moves (with equally impressive wardrobes) to supagroup G and the P's. This party is jiving to 'Daddy Could Swear', and Gladys has the power to turn the Superdome into a roller derby with her infectious and graceful groove. Turning the page to preggers Alicia Keys ( Alicia Keys was born Alicia Cook, and raised in Hell's Kitchen...suspicious) who's best piece post breakout 'Fallen' is no doubt another deadly duet, the dove cooing duet between Leesh and Ush, 'My Boo'.  On to the next (on, on to the next) one,- 'We Got Hood Love' kills two birds with one stone, with Mary J. hollering at Trey Songz (although I see the two as having more of mother-son type of relationship). The song takes time to gain strength until Marys all warmed up and ready to be unleashed (roll of thunder hear her cry); this fire-breathing dragon has a black belt in the battle cry.

Jill Scott fans close your ears- this real woman may have curves, but her music causes a string of zzzzzzzzs.  Still, Scott is a powerful African American female force, and 'Hate On Me' keeps me awake.  Scott will do well in her intimate setting of one of the Dome's second tier super lounges, as will Estelle, who bumps the island soul with Sean Paul on 'Come Over'.  Unfortunately, Estelle's Achilles heel is her embarrassing attempt at dancing to her own songs; watching Estelle move on screen is like an author stuttering during a reading-unacceptable.  Figure it out, Estelle. This does not take away from her bangin' bod or vocal vibes, with winners like 'No Substitute Love'( (hunt down the X marks the spot Treasure Fingers remix) and 'Wait a Minute (Just A Touch.) And to second line it out Sunday night is Earth, Wind, and Fire, shown here wylin' out Nick Cannon style to 'Boogie Wonderland'.


So head to the Superdome this weekend, cuz it’s a be Essensation.

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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt

B. E. Mintz

Stephen Babcock

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