*This year’s Essence Music Festival is expanding to four days of concerts and sets aside a day of activities geared toward emerging talent.
The up-and-comers will perform on the festival’s opening day, July 5. Rising stars Diggy Simmons, the OMG Girlz and New Orleans’ own Roots of Music will play on the New & Next Stage next to the Superdome.
Simmons is the son of Run DMC star Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons. The 17-year-old recently dropped his debut album, “Unexpected Arrival,” which features rapper Jadakiss, and R&B singers Jeremih and Tank.
Atlanta-based OMG Girlz, which includes 17-year-old Breaunna “Miss Baby Doll” Womak, was created in 2009 by Kiesha Miles and Tameka “Tiny” Harris, who is also Star’s mother and whose stint with the 1990s group Xscape helped guide the trio to a deal with Interscope Records.
Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks told The Associated Press the addition of a young-people-focused fourth day underscores the festival’s goal of giving new talent a springboard.
“The youth empowerment experience was part of the festival’s original design,” she said.
Focusing on pushing up youth had before now been the “unofficial” start of the festival’s free daily “empowerment experience,” which seeks to tackle issues affecting minority communities and underscored its goal of moving the community and its people forward, she said.
“We felt it was important now to formally expand the festival to four days and formally move that youth experience into the spotlight,” Ebanks said.
“Diggy Simmons, the OMG Girlz and the Roots of Music are of the moment and speak to the new and next generation,” she said. “The Essence Music Festival is all about featuring performances from artists who are very experienced and beloved who have long track records. This stage allows us to look at who might be the next Mary J. Blige or D’Angelo and we want to celebrate that.”