Kanye West's joint 2010 tour with Lady Gaga may have been a nonstarter, but the rapper is making up for lost time by adding his name to a growing string of major festivals. In addition to bringing My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to the indie masses at the upcoming Coachella festival, West will also topline this year's Essence Music Festival at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.
The 17th annual gathering of hip-hop and R&B glitterati will take place July 1-3 and also feature sets from Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott and Trey Songz; Charlie Wilson, Fantasia and Boyz II Men will also perform on the main stage. Other stages will host Stephanie Mills, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Macy Gray, Dwele, Alexander O'Neal & Cherrelle, Mavis Staples, Mint Condition, M.C. Lyte, Kourtney Heart, Tank, Soul Rebels Brass Band and the Rebirth Brass Band.
There will be plenty of other local talent on display as well, including Irma Thomas, Charmaine Neville Band and the TBC Brass Band.
"We listen to our audience and these are the musicians they want to see under one roof for three days," said Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc. in a statement announcing the lineup. "Our mission this year was to celebrate community through the prism of the art form that continues to tell our readers' stories: R&B."
Headline sponsor Essence magazine is also running a contest called R&B Star, in which 1980s singer Pebbles will be on the lookout for the next great soul singer. The winner will get a one-year management contract as well as a spot on the stage at the 2011 Essence Music Festival. Tickets for the festival are not yet on sale.