The Best New Orleans Acts To See During Essence Fest 2018

There will be plenty of time to see out-of-town acts at Essence Fest, but you should make time in your schedule for these local legends and rising stars.

by Alex Galbraith
July 3, 2018

denisia, essence fest, essence fest 2018, essence fest lineup
Denisia is one of a handful of local acts performing at this year’s Essence Fest (Credit: Denisia/Instagram)

We all know that Essence Fest brings the biggest names in R&B down to us. And trust we’re just as excited to see Daniel Caesar as the next person with two ears and a heart. But Essence also offers the chance to show some NOLA locals some love. Since that’s what we’re all about — we didn’t choose our name on a whim, y’all — we decided to signal boost some of the fellow New Orleanians who will be rocking stages throughout the weekend.

Big Freedia


The queen diva needs no introduction, but this will be the first time that an Essence Fest crowd has seen her. In spite of her outsized status as a New Orleans ambassador and fest’s ties to the city, the 3rd Ward Bounce rapper has never actually performed at Essence. That egregious oversight will be set to rights when Freedia takes over one of the Superlounges.

DJ Jubilee


Jubilee might be less well known than Freedia outside of the city but within parish lines, Jubilee is just as beloved. We doubt that Essence Fest crowds will need to be told it’s time to do their thang (girl), but the legendary bounce DJ is here to remind them just in case.



Bounce of all stripes is represented at this year’s Essence, from the hyperactive Sissy stylings of Freedia to the classic flavor of DJ Jubilee. Denisia is here to offer us something a little smoother with our Triggaman beats. The R&B singer blew up off of a remix of Adele’s “Hello” but has plenty of her own material to offer to visitors stopping through for the Fest.



New Orleans is a state of mind and it sticks with people no matter where they go. That’s why everything about Pell feels distinctly of-the-city, celebrating its culture even as he takes sonic leaps and bounds into the future from his home base in Mississippi. Even though the rapper was forced to move to Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina, he’s still one of the best possible representatives of NOLA for Essence Fest attendees.

Mykia Jovan

Jazz has a bit of an unearned reputation among those not in-the-know as being stodgy and traditionalist. Mykia Jovan has been proving this wrong in venues throughout the city, bringing her powerful voice to bear on neo-soul-inflected and lounge-y tracks about her experiences growing up, living and loving in Hollygrove. Her debut album Eliyahu is essential listening and this seasoned performer is not to be missed live.


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MeloMania will perform at Essence Fest 2018. (Credit: Melomania)

MeloMania literally means “musical obsession” and their music mirrors that. The band sounds like an incredible busking performance, the sort streetside performance that plants you to the sidewalk and makes you wonder “who were they?” for weeks after. They’re bound to leave more than a few visitors with melodies stuck in their heads.

Gary O’Berry

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Gary O’Berry is a rising New Orleans star performing at Essence Fest (Credit: Gary O’Berry/Twitter)

The city might have a lock on its own crazed, energetic style of rap, but that doesn’t mean there’s not room for something a little more laid-back. Gary O’Berry has been steadily climbing via his relatable and breezy cloud rap tracks, representing the city at JazzFest and Essence.

DJ Kristi Sugarcookie

The local TV personality and radio host will spin sounds for Essence Fest attendees over several sets throughout the weekend.

What do you think, NOLA? Who are you most excited to see at the city’s biggest fest?

He has a distinct voice that you will come to know more as you follow VL NOLA. He has shown himself to be an intrepid entertainment and culture writer, who always knows about the best events, happenings and performers before anybody else. Now, he’s going to tell you all about them here at Very Local NOLA.

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