4th Star Weekend

The Essence Music Festival brings top hip-hop artists to the Superdome for the Fourth of July weekend.


The Essence Music Festival presents a three-day slate of entertaiment by top names in hip-hop and New Orleans jazz and funk at the Louisiana Superdome. The annual Independence Day weekend event also brings a full schedule of speakers to the Morial Convention Center for panel discussions on topics ranging from politics and business to family life and spirituality. Below are previews of some of the mainstage and Superlounge performances in the Superdome.

J. Holiday Friday, July 4, Mainstage

In the video for his hit song 'Suffocate," J. Holiday traipses around the streets of a deserted European city, stops in at a picturesque café, thumbs through discs at a record shop and examines Eiffel Tower statuettes in a souvenir shop window. Paris, it is safe to say, has not been a typical set location for American R&B singers, but J. Holiday is not just any R&B singer.

Within two years of the release of his debut single 'Be With Me," Holiday is earning comparisons to fellow R&B heavyweights like R. Kelly and the Dream (who penned Holiday's 2007 chart-topper, 'Bed") while avoiding the overproduced, pitch-corrected sound that's becoming more and more prevalent on recordings by artists like T-Pain and others.

Born in Washington, D.C., Holiday, whose real name is Nahum Grymes, was deeply affected at the age of 11 by his father's death from a terminal illness. Says Holiday on his Web site: 'The streets actually kept me from going down the wrong path. People always assume that the hood is going to steer you wrong. I always had people in the hood, to this day, who wanted to keep me out of trouble. They couldn't be my dad, but they told me what it was: advising me to think, to be smart."

Motivated by old-school singers like Marvin Gaye and Al Green, Holiday earned his stripes at school talent shows and began singing semi-professionally with friends in D.C. A demo tape sent to Music Line was well received and resulted in Holiday's relocation to Atlanta, the newly self-discovered music city, where he separated from his former collaborators and eventually signed with Capitol Records.

Holiday's 2007 debut album, Back of My Lac', is a unique work, ranging from urban chart-toppers to R&B/hip-hop crossover tracks to soul ballads showcasing his musical range " and his evident emulation of Marvin Gaye. Holiday's first release contains solid material including a combination of slow rapping and soaring vocals on less-produced tracks that make them worthy companions to the album's more mainstream songs. He's a musician with a social consciousness, too, and much of Back of My Lac' is about his life growing up in D.C. In 'Ghetto," he raps, 'We got people in the streets / But the government ain't doin' a damn thing." 'The only choice we're given is my back's against the wall," he sings in 'Thug Commandments."

Holiday's career will always be associated with the astronomic popularity of 'Bed," which held the No. 1 spot on Billboard's R&B/hip-hop chart for five consecutive weeks last summer. That song, whose background instrumentals are peppered with spicy drum beats, is a good demonstration of Holiday's natural vocal talents, without any challenging lyrics to get in the way.

Young and talented R&B singers are all too common in a genre where hitmakers come and go weekly, but Holiday plans on sticking around. In an interview with London-based Total Kiss, he said, 'I try to make sure that I talk about things that people can relate to. I definitely try to get that soul across, especially from the 'hood. There's so much soul there, people don't even know."

With more and more tracks from Back of My Lac' getting radio exposure, it doesn't look like he'll fade into obscurity anytime soon. Sharing a roster at Essence with the likes of Rihanna, Chris Brown and Kanye West certainly doesn't hurt. Holiday even steals the show in a recent collaboration with Fat Joe, 'I Won't Tell," notwithstanding P. Diddy's cameo in the accompanying video. Earlier this month, he was nominated for a BET award. Depending on the outcome of that, this might just be his year. " Cartelli Kanye West Friday, July 4, Mainstage

Almost every American knows " and almost every New Orleanian fondly remembers " that less than a week after Katrina, Kanye West created a Category 5 poop-storm for his publicist by going offscript during an NBC broadcast of a benefit concert with the immortal sentence, 'George Bush doesn't care about black people." But did you know that West has a fondness for futuristic, sharply designed art furniture? Or that he's a big fan of the Drum Buddy, the thereminesque instrument designed by local musician Mr. Quintron? West reveals these things on his amazingly intriguing blog,, where he often posts photos of postmodern seating " a recent one was simply a freestanding, resin-cast zigzag " with headings like 'the illest chair ever!"

West didn't become the caliber of star who's drafted to be a charity-broadcast talking head overnight. During the '90s, the Chicago-raised artist stacked up cred as a studio mastermind and beatmaker for artists like Jermaine Dupri and Foxy Brown. He became an in-house producer at Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records in the early years of the millennium with a deft sampling touch, emerging as a bona fide star after he produced Jay-Z's 2001 classic The Blueprint, which included the anthem 'Izzo (H.O.V.A.)"

West broke out as a rapper with two albums that bookended 2005, each earning multiple Grammy nods and a pair of statuettes. But his real explosion came with 2007's innovative Graduation, a masterpiece hip-hop/synth-pop hybrid with a dark, glimmering sheen that's part Stanley Kubrick's 2001, part Ziggy Stardust. It featured a collaboration with the French duo Daft Punk, who seem to have inspired his current Glow in the Dark Tour " a blacklight-and-neon extravaganza heavy with props (many commissioned at Jim Henson's Creature Shop), '80s shutter shades in acidic colors, human-robot romance and intergalactic vixens painted different shiny colors.

Sure, Yeezy isn't all candor, space opera and MOMA-quality interior design. His hip-hop braggadocio has often swung too far into the territory of embarrassing hubris, as with his odd tirade at the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards after losing in the Best Video category ('If I don't win, the show loses credibility," he said after crashing the stage and hijacking the mic) or delaying his already late-night set at the 2008 Bonnaroo Music Festival till nearly 5 a.m. so as not to go up against the night's other headliners. But people still love him: his wild beats, his funky chairs, his fondness for French robots and maybe most of all his caprice. Like Hollywood starlets of days gone by, leading diamond-collared leopards on chains, Kanye is guaranteed to be doing, saying or even sitting on something completely outré and unexpected. At press time, the BET Awards broadcast, at which he's performing (and nominated), is about to start. We can't wait. " Fensterstock Grandmaster Flash Friday, July 4, Superlounge

'There are those that say, "the best.' There are those that say, "No. 1.' There are those that say, "the greatest.' And then there are those that are first. And for me, when you say first, that puts you in a category that can never, ever be changed First is forever." Boasting, fronting and self-promotion have been the meat of hip-hop since its genesis on the playgrounds of outer-borough New York City. But when the pioneering turntablist Grandmaster Flash makes the claim of being first, it's not just swagger " it's the gospel truth.

In the early '70s, Joseph Saddler was a first-generation American obsessed with his Barbados-born father's massive vinyl collection. By the decade's end, he had become Grandmaster Flash, inventor of the DJ. By introducing cutting and scratching techniques " the 'Quick Mix Theory," the 'Clock Theory," marking vinyl with greasepaint to pull out hooks live before the invention of the digital sampler " to the evolving sound of hip-hop in its earliest days in the Bronx, Flash literally defined the course of hip-hop, sticking his flag in the sound as if he was claiming a new world. And he did.

From behind the wheels of steel, Flash, along with rapper Melle Mel, masterminded timeless conscious hip-hop epics like the 1983 DJ single 'White Lines (Don't Do It)," 1982's Platinum-selling 'The Message" and the fierce, cautionary poem 'Hustler's Convention," first recorded by Last Poets member Lightnin' Rod, all for the seminal Bronx-based label Sugar Hill Records.

After a bout with crack addiction in the '80s, Flash bounced back to serve as musical director of The Chris Rock Show for its entire run in the '90s, and began bringing his famously acrobatic, showmanship-heavy style on the ones and twos to new audiences, including, curiously enough, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth II. In 2007, Grandmaster Flash was the first hip-hop DJ to be inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. His memoirs, The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats, came out earlier this month, and he currently hosts a weekly radio show, The Flash Mash, on the Sirius network. " Fensterstock LL Cool J Saturday, July 5, Mainstage

It's hard, but don't be jealous of LL Cool J. At the age of 17, the Queens, New York-born rapper became Def Jam Records' inaugural artist. His 1985 album Radio was the now-gargantuan label's first release. Though he's now obnoxiously well known for his muscles (which really are crazy big), he's more importantly one of the few rappers to have sustained a lucrative two-decade recording career. His full life also has included flexing and licking his lips in roughly 20 (mostly questionable) movies, from Charlie's Angels to kids' fare to a cheesy shark flick. He's launched clothing lines, including FUBU, and another is upcoming in conjunction with Sears. LL's even published three books.

On Aug 5, LL will drop Exit 13, his 13th and final album for the only record label he's ever known, the definitive label that he helped build. He's bailing partly because Exit 13 has sat on the burners for two years " a conundrum he politely blames on Def Jam's then-president, rapper Jay-Z. What some media tried to make seem like a rap beef was actually a calmly stated and legitimate concern on the part of LL, who feared his record wasn't being given the label attention it deserved while the company president was busy releasing his own albums and touring. LL felt it a bad idea to be in direct competition with his own boss. It probably doesn't help matters that both rappers run around proclaiming themselves to be 'The G.O.A.T.," meaning, 'The Greatest Of All Time." One of Exit 13's first singles, produced by DJ Scratch, is in fact called, 'Rockin' with the G.O.A.T."

LL can also be surprisingly humble. 'My music suffered a bit on my last two or three records, because I made my decisions as an actor and businessman first," he told Reuters recently. 'But there are a lot of symphonic instruments on Exit 13, and it has a melodic musicality that I think goes beyond anything I've done in years. I'm also not gonna ignore my male fans this time out." He has had a penchant for rap ballads since he invented them with 1987's 'I Need Love." But in direct opposition to that sentiment, in a very business-trumps-art move, the new album was executive produced by the supremely popular yet less-talented rapper, 50 Cent. The lead single 'I Cry" features Bon Jovi guitarist Ritchie Sambora. 'But the single is actually the most conventional of all the [singles] on the album," LL says. 'It only gets better and crazier as you go along."

In the meantime, it's not hard to give LL Cool J a lot of respect. Just selling albums and concert tickets in 2008 without having to fly under an 'old school" marketing banner is unprecedented. And he still possesses enough charisma, MTV hits (23 years worth) and crazy muscles to undoubtedly rock the bells at Essence. " Welch Jill Scott Saturday, July 5, Mainstage

Reciting Jill Scott's extensive resume is a good way to lose your breath. In a relatively short career, the Philadelphia-born soul singer has released three albums of original material, one live record, been nominated for 12 Grammys (three of which she's won) and been a guest singer on tracks by the Roots and Lupe Fiasco (to name just two of her many collaborators). She's also published a surprisingly decent book of poetry and is wrecking shop as an actress, with appearances in Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married? and the lead role in the HBO adaptation of the best-selling mystery novel The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. So how is it that being a fan of Jill Scott manages to still feel like being in on a well-kept secret and part of an exclusive club?

Well, perhaps one of the reasons is that Scott, unlike most of her diva contemporaries, manages the feat of projecting the warmth and intimacy of a good friend and remains an actual living, breathing human being. One can't really imagine, say, baking cookies with Beyoncé, or talking smack about the neighbors on the porch with Mary J. Blige, but Scott's 'real folks" bonhomie shines through. One of her only forays into product sponsorship isn't a line of cosmetics " she shills for bras for bustier-than-average women instead. But this doesn't mean Scott's any less musically complex or exciting than her peers. In fact, the depth of her recorded output and the sheer unadulterated joy of her skills as a vocalist " see her appearance in Dave Chappelle's concert film Block Party to lay any doubts about her abilities as a live performer to rest " puts her on a plateau far above those who might have the distinction of out-selling her. " Soria Morris Day Sunday, July 6, Mainstage

Somebody get the man a mirror, because for Morris Day, things are looking fine. After a supercharged performance at the 50th annual Grammy Awards, the smooth-stepping, sass-talking playboy is back at the helm of an all-original lineup of the racy, witty, over-the-top funk outfit the Time " for the first time in almost two decades.

The Minneapolis ensemble had its genesis as far back as the early '70s, when a teenage Prince was playing house parties and dances on a circuit that also included acts like the high-school R&B outfit Flyte Tyme " the first collaboration between keyboardist Jimmy Jam and bassist Terry Lewis. Prince's band was called Grand Central and his bass player, Andre Cymone, knew a shy young drummer named Morris Day, who he eventually brought into the band.

Skip forward to 1980, after Prince, with his first three albums for Warner Bros., had unleashed his signature erotic disco-funk on the world and the Billboard charts. The label was sufficiently impressed to give him free reign with side projects, and Prince cherry-picked his favorite artists from that underground hometown scene: Lewis, Jimmy Jam and Monte Moir on keys, Jesse Johnson on guitar, Jerome Benton on backing vocals and Jellybean Johnson on drums. At this point, Day, with an oiled pompadour and gold zoot suit that made him probably the most reflective man in show business, had gotten over his timidity. With Prince as writer/producer svengali, the group unleashed a pair of madly danceable albums " The Time and What Time Is It? " in 1981 and 1982, heavily influenced by Prince's manic beats and synth riffs where horns had been in the '70s. The Time showed off extraordinary stage charisma, starring Jerome's comic wizardry as Day's onstage valet, in Purple Rain, but soon splintered when Jimmy Jam and Lewis left the band in 1983, allegedly due to Prince's famous micromanagement in the studio. (The pair didn't fare too badly. They went on to write or produce more than 50 No. 1 pop hits, most notably for Janet and Michael Jackson, and earn frequent comparisons to the legendary Philadelphia soul production team Gamble and Huff.)

The Time dropped one more album, Ice Cream Castle, which yielded the classics 'Jungle Love" and 'The Bird." Since then, a few versions of the band have surfaced, including a 1990 iteration that appeared in Prince's Graffiti Bridge and put out the album Pandemonium (which yielded 'Jerk Out," its first top 10 single). They also cameo'd as a memorable running reference in the Kevin Smith film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. But its performance of 'Jungle Love" at the 2008 Grammys, in all their suave, sharp-suited, theatrical glory, was a consummation devoutly wished for by fans for decades. With a full summer tour underway and rumors of a new album in the works, it looks like there's plenty of Time to come. Oh-wee-oh-wee-oh. " Fensterstock Chris Rock Saturday, July 5, Mainstage

In the world of comedy, Chris Rock is in a club so exclusive, even high-level Masons get jealous. His distinction? He's one of the very few stand-up comics that can boast that he has dropped the comedic equivalent of an atomic bomb on culture. The recently deceased George Carlin did it with his classic 'Seven Words You Can't Say on Television" routine. Chris Rock did it in 1996 with a scathing routine on his HBO special Bring the Pain. The notorious segment begins with a simple query from Rock to his audience: 'Who's more racist: black people or white people?" Until then, Rock was primarily known from his stint on Saturday Night Live, a memorable turn in the New Jack Swingsploitation flick New Jack City as lovable crackhead 'Pookie" and his hip-hop spoof CB4 (in which he utters the for-the-ages line 'Shut up and eat your big-ass biscuit."). In the routine, he quickly spits out the answer to his own rhetorical question: 'Black people! You know why? 'Cause we hate black people, too!"

What follows is nine minutes of sheer vitriolic genius that is at turns audacious, offensive, incisive and hysterically funny. And by the end of that nine minutes, known forever after as 'Black People vs. Niggaz," Rock's place in the comedy pantheon was comfortably assured. The routine sent brains around the world into meltdown, and it's been decried, dissected and debated ad nauseum.

In the 12 years since that career-making performance, Rock has become an American institution of sorts " a twisted one, but an institution nevertheless. Among his highlights, we can thank him for the sublime genius of the film Pootie Tang (that's right: sublime genius). He's directed two self-starring feature films, hosted the Academy Awards and introduced both the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica at music festivals. During an interview last year, Bill Maher called him 'The arbiter of all racial things in America," which might be the last millstone anyone would want to have hung around their neck, but Rock took the dubious honor in stride. He's funny, but he's never shied away from saying anything insightful, political or out-and-out provocative.

Which leaves us to wonder what he's going to do when he hits the stage at Essence. Since the events of '96, Rock's stand-up has been routinely great, but nothing he's done has quite topped 'Black People vs. Niggaz." But there's hope " surely a city mired in as much tragedy, corruption, crime and sheer mind-boggling ridiculousness as ours has got to be fertile ground for material for another classic routine, right? " Soria Mary J. Blige Sunday, July 6, Mainstage

The cover of USA Weekend once proclaimed, 'The same pain that helped Mary J. Blige become an R&B superstar also threatened to destroy her. Then one day, love walked into her life." This seems to describe the arc of most Blige albums, at least since 1994's My Life: she finds love, love turns on her, and through the struggle, she somehow finally discovers a redemption that truly lasts " now she is a woman until the next album. Hence, titles like 2005's The Breakthrough, which spawned Blige's promise to herself, 'No More Cryin'," plus a famous cover of U2's lyrically banal, 'One," performed with and produced by the Irish band. 'She's now been there and done that," wrote The Houston Press of Blige's successful eighth studio record, 2007's Growing Pains. 'Now she no longer wants to wallow in her own self-pity. She's decided to stop moping around," the review went. It celebrated her transformation from angry and insecure B-girl to confident grown woman. Oh Mary. When will you learn? Millions hope never.

But even when her themes grow repetitive and self-help-y, Blige remains the real deal. She possesses what seems like old-school street cred: At one point, Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight played the part of her manager and consultant. Early in the game, she momentarily softened the images of rappers Method Man and Nas respectively, introducing them to audiences they arguably would never have otherwise found. Diddy " Puff Daddy, back even before Biggie " became the hot producer and solidly mediocre rapper he is today by virtue of breaking into mainstream pop radio via Blige's debut album What's the 411?

A decade ago, having paid little attention to 'The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul," I covered Blige's arena tour for Mary (the album featuring 'Deep Inside," with the Elton John sample). Wearing a sparkly black spandex workout suit to accommodate extreme flexibility, Blige fairly inelegantly bounded from stage left to right and back all night long, slipping in her own sweat " a fountain of emotion. Her athleticism alone astounded me, but was more reminiscent of Tina Turner than squeaky little Mariah Carey, Blige's voice conjured Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin. She may lack those artists' timelessness. (In 30 years, will our kids know the freeform 'words" to Blige's 'Dance For Me," or recognize The Young and the Restless piano sample as, 'No More Drama," or have even once heard Blige's first top-10 hit, 'Real Love"?) But rather than the trite American Idol-style voice exercises Clear Channel usually polutes the airwaves with, Blige wailed so hard while running and jumping and thrashing onstage that her throat, several times, gave out beautifully, expressing more than any perfect note could have. She soared; she rocked.

Flash forward to last year's Essence Music Festival, when Blige wore a nice silver dress that she seemingly did not want to ruin by moving around too much. Standing largely static, she looked good, her pain-and-redemption spiel adjusted down a notch " a bit classier, a little whinier, a lot less dangerous. Still, at least for right now, it's hard to remember what life in the pop R&B world was like before Blige. Sure, Beyoncé's a good dancer and Alicia Keys is of a higher quality than any of them " but Mary undoubtedly built that mold. " Welch Maze featuring Frankie Beverly Sunday, July 6, Mainstage

New Orleans has always been good to the elaborately named Maze featuring Frankie Beverly (who we'll hereafter refer to simply as Maze, because who at this point doesn't know Maze features Frankie Beverly?). It was here in the fall of 1980 that the group recorded what many consider to be its seminal album, Live in New Orleans, at a legendary show at the now-shuttered Saenger Theatre. In return, Maze has been good to New Orleans, making frequent appearances at Jazz Fest (including this year) and the Essence Music Festival.

It's easy to take for granted how influential and innovative Maze was and continues to be. While its hit-making days are well in their past, and its live shows are heavy with nostalgia for halcyon times 'back in the day" that might be more fuzzy remembrance than real memories, the contentment is well earned. With a catalog as rich in epic hits as Maze's ('Joy and Pain," 'Happy Feelin's"), the band is justly recognized as innovators of the type of secular gospel electro R&B that's a touch above slow jam and is inextricably intertwined with the DNA of black popular music. To put it as bluntly as posssible, Maze is the Mozart of sultry, meandering, laidback soul. " Soria

Preservation Hall Jazz Band's Gospel Revival Sunday, July 6, Superlounge

The blazing gospel album Joe Lastie Jr. and the Lastie Family Gospel Choir, released last month by Preservation Hall Recordings, was actually something of a happy accident. Preservation Hall Jazz Band drummer Lastie originally intended to record a solo jazz album produced by Hall creative director Ben Jaffe, with a few gospel tracks thrown in. When Lastie's relatives, aunt Bettie Ann Lastie on vocals, organist Rev. Leon Vaughan and legendary local drummer Herlin Riley started jamming, though, the spirit caught them. What resulted was an hourlong, fantastically lo-fi gospel jam, recorded live in the Hall's showroom, full of fiery praise and musical thunder. The Hall released that session as-is " sounding gloriously like a country Sunday morning from a century ago. Now the group is continuing its celebration of New Orleans' gospel tradition with the first-ever Preservation Hall Gospel Revival at Essence " guaranteed to fill festgoers with the spirit, lower Ninth Ward-style.

The Revival bill features Lastie's family band accompanied by a 15-member choir. They're joined by the venerable Leo Jackson Jr. and the Melody Clouds, an old-school gospel group started as a quartet in 1965 by the late Leo Jackson Sr. The current version of the Melody Clouds includes four Jacksons and four new voices, which add extra soul-shaking power to a set of heartfelt worship standards. Topping the bill is a hybrid gospel/secular offering: the full Preservation Hall Jazz Band performing with guest vocalist Big Al Carson, a set intended to showcase the links between New Orleans gospel, blues and jazz. " Fensterstock

Irma Thomas Sunday, July 6, Superlounge

How do New Orleans musicians know they've made it into the canon of their hometown? Having a venue named after one of your songs is a good indicator, as is the case with Professor Longhair (Tipitina's) and Ernie K-Doe (The Mother-in-Law Lounge). Another landmark on the way to sainthood is being featured on collectible poster for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, a distinction that the great Irma Thomas, aka the 'Soul Queen of New Orleans," claimed earlier this year (joining the likes of Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden, Pete Fountain and Mahalia Jackson).

It was about time. Although Thomas never quite penetrated the mainstream of American pop-radio consciousness like some of her '60s peers (she won her first Grammy award in 2007 after five decades of recording), you'd never know it from the love she continues to generate both here and abroad. Assemble a panel of 10 New Orleanians and ask each one what their favorite Irma Thomas song is and you probably will get 10 different answers and 10 different reasons why. That sad guy with the mournful eyes who looks as if he stayed out alone at the bar a little too late last night? He's partial to Irma's sublimely bittersweet ballad 'Ruler of My Heart." The lady with the cocky twist to her lips? Irma's original version of 'Time is On My Side," later made famous by the Rolling Stones. That fidgety hipster in the highwater pants and Buddy Holly Coke-bottle glasses? He likes to do the mashed potato to the frenetic 'Breakaway." And so on.

When it comes to musicians, the Crescent City fiercely loves its own, and it loves almost no hometown musician more than Irma Thomas. Her royal status is anything but hyperbole " when she sings, somebody listening is falling in love. If it isn't a local ordinance to have at least one of her greatest hits records on every jukebox in every bar in town, it should be. " Soria Gil Scott-Heron Sunday, July 6, Superlounge

Poet/musician Gil Scott-Heron is potentially one of the most influential figures in 20th century popular culture, acknowledged " along with the militant Last Poets collective " as the father of hip-hop for a rhythmic spoken-word style he often paired with thumping live jazz instrumentation. Heron's poetry and soulful jazz singing was always biting, often witty (as with his 1970 poem 'Whitey On The Moon," which took on the dubious priorities of our society and social inequality: 'I can't pay no doctor bill/ But whitey's on the moon.") and redolent with black nationalist consciousness. Heron was instrumental in the institution of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a national holiday, touring with Stevie Wonder in 1980 to rally Americans to support the proposal. His epic piece 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" remains one of the most recognized songs, and countercultural slogans, in the world.

Heron has released more than 20 albums and half a dozen books of poetry. In 1993, he acknowledged his position as rap's wise old sage with the track 'A Message to the Messengers," which tried to check gangsta rappers in their tracks: 'The first sign is peace, tell all them gun totin' young brothas/ That the man is glad to see us out there killin' one another."

Ironically, in the '90s and early in this decade, Heron " author of poignant screeds like 'The Bottle" and the much-sampled 'Home Is Where the Hatred Is," which railed against the plague of substance abuse in poor black communities " fell victim to the very poisons he condemned with his slick, jazzy invective. He did two stints in New York state prisons on charges related to possession of crack cocaine in 2001 and 2006 and suffered allegations of domestic abuse from an ex-girlfriend. After being paroled in 2007, he revealed that he is HIV-positive.

Over the past year, it appears that Scott-Heron has rallied and settled into his position as hip-hop's professor emeritus, performing several dates in New York (he was scheduled to appear at Carnegie Hall last week with Mos Def, as part of the JVC Jazz Festival). He also told the press that he is working on an updated edition of The Last Holiday, an autobiography that focuses on his 1980 tour with Stevie Wonder. " Fensterstock

Essence Music Festival

July 4-6

Louisiana Superdome

Tickets $56-$110

J. Holiday Friday, July 4, Mainstage - F. SCOTT SHAFER
  • F. Scott Shafer
  • J. Holiday Friday, July 4, Mainstage

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