Missy Elliott jumps into the crowd during performance at Essence Fest
“It’s been over 20 years that I’ve been in this music industry,” Missy Elliott told the packed audience at the New Orleans Super Dome towards the beginning of her headlining Essence Festival set.
And over the course of her hour-long show — only her second public performance this year — the hip-hop veteran reminded fans why she’s lasted so long in the biz, even if she hasn’t released a record in nearly 10 years: kickass songwriting and cutting-edge production.
Digging through her six-album, decades-spanning catalog, Elliott performed both early hits (“Sock It 2 Me,” “Hot Boyz”) and her smashes (“Get Ur Freak On,” “Pass That Dutch”) as the crowd — including Precious and Empire star Gabourey Sidibe, in the front row — went wild and “holla!”-ed along.
But her standout moment from the night was when, during the middle of set, she abandoned her (gyrating, crumping, breakdancing) backup crew to join the audience for “Work It.”
“We gon’ show New Orleans how we really get down,” said Elliott — who brandished the same microphone with her sequined initials from her Super Bowl — as security ushered her past the metal barriers to get down on the stadium floor.
The nostalgia-fueled show had everything, from surprise guest spots from protégés Jazmine Sullivan and Sharaya J, to two costume changes. (Well, nearly everything. Save for a few quick lines, Elliott left her hit jam “Lose Control” off the set list.)