The Essence music festival kicked off on Friday with performances by LL Cool J, Maxwell and Brandi. The first night of the festival, billed as “party with a purpose” certainly fulfilled said purpose – celebrating African-American culture. Brandi proved a well-placed warm up act as she excited the crowd with a few hits off her Two Eleven album, Entertainment Weekly reports.

LL Cool J, CBS Upfront
LL Cool J kicked off Essence weekend.

Next up on the Superdome stage was LL Cool J, who rocked some of his greatest hits, proving that he still has it in him to rile up the crowd. He went through a lot of his greatest hits, from “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” and “Rock the Bells” to “Mama Said Knock You Out” and “’Round the Way Girl.” EPMD also joined the rapper/actor on stage for a session that brought the crowd to its feet. LL delivered a lot of showmanship and great energy with his performance, but by far the most engaging bit – for the crowd at least, was his invite to a few ladies from the audience to join him on stage.

LL Cool J, Make-A-Wish Foundation Gala
The rapper's performance was all about the fans.

LL invited the women, who, in his words didn’t fit the “Barbie doll” image, and the ladies seemed to be having a blast taking part in the impromptu dance competition. One of the fans got so excited, in fact, that she refused to leave the stage after the song was over.

Next was Jill Scott, lifting the crowd’s spirit even higher with rousing tunes such as “Cross My Mind,” “Long Walk,” and “Hate on Me.” Maxwell came on after to end the night on a high note with his soulful hits “This Woman’s Work,” “Pretty Wings,” and “Bad Habits.”

Jill Scott, Philly 4th of July Jam
Jill Scott added her soulful flair to the night.