On a weekend when some of today's biggest R&B stars collided with the genre's legendary singers to celebrate the 15th annual Essence Music Festival, one common topic was consistent throughout the events: of course, Michael Jackson.
The three-day event, which celebrates African-American culture in the heart of New Orleans with a series of workshops and music showcases, boasted a lineup that included [artist id="2002414"]Ne-Yo[/artist], [artist id="1784962"]John Legend[/artist], [artist id="1356440"]Robin Thicke[/artist] and [artist id="1236911"]Beyoncé[/artist], along with veterans such as Lionel Richie (who reunited with the Commodores), Anita Baker and Frankie Beverly and Maze, all of whom paid homage to Jackson.
The festival kicked off on Friday evening with a video tribute of Jackson as a live band played a number of his hits against a 20-foot backdrop of the fallen star. The tribute was followed by sets from Ne-Yo
and then John Legend. For his performance, Ne-Yo dedicated the majority of his set to Jackson. Click here for photos from the show."I'm gonna do my best to keep his legacy alive," said the singer, who was clad in a Jacksonesque hat and sparkling jacket.
Next up, Beyoncé brought her "I Am ..." Tour to the New Orleans Superdome. After tearing through hits including "Single Ladies," "Ego" and "Crazy in Love," B then went into her own MJ tribute.
After a video of a 5-year-old Beyoncé doing her best Michael Jackson impression, B told the hushed audience that at that moment, "That's when I decided who I wanted to be," and that MJ was responsible for the inspiration. Beyoncé then went on to sing "Halo," dedicating new lyrics to Jackson.
The festival also included Jackson tributes from Robin Thicke, Jazmine Sullivan and an early morning set from Maxwell. The festival was capped with performances from Frankie Beverly and Maze and the Commodores.
Chris Brown, Ludacris, Gabrielle Union, Bill Cosby and Sanaa Lathan attended the festival, snapping photos with fans and signing autographs on Bourbon Street and speaking at workshops at the city's convention center. Queen Latifah was also on the lineup for the festival for Friday night's kickoff where she shared some of the most memorable words for Michael Jackson.
"I think you're going to be seeing a lot of tributes to Michael Jackson over the next year, at least," Latifah told the crowd. "He was the greatest entertainer of all time, bottom line. There's no one who can compare to him."
MTV's live coverage of the Michael Jackson public memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles will begin on Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET / 9 a.m. PT.
For complete coverage of the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit "Michael Jackson Remembered."
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