Broken up into three acts, the Louis Vuitton Don ran through more than 20 songs, ranging from tracks off his debut album to his most recent, 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.' Kicking off his set from the center of the Superdome, West appeared above the audience in a white blazer, jeans and sneakers to perform 'Dark Fantasy,' before making his way through the crowd, shaking hands like a fighter preparing for a boxing match. Ironically, he went straight into 'Power,' as if providing an explanation to his rock star-like entrance.
"It feels good to be home," he told the crowd, who at their peak had spilled out of their seats and into every open aisle hoping for a closer glimpse of the rapper. "When I say home, I'm talking about with my people. I been around the world... got into a little controversy here and there. Even though the media tries to lie to you every day I just wanna say I thank ya'll for standing by me and supporting me even when they said my career was over."
Never one to shy away from being candid, West made mention of his now infamous incident at the 2009 MTV Awards, which set his career into what many had written off as a downward spiral. "I had a little bit to drink that night," he admitted amidst the audience's cheers and laughter. West also took fans down his own personal music memory lane playing some his favorite songs, which he credited as inspiring his musical genius. "I don't do interviews anymore because the press be trying to kill me, I let the music speak for itself," he said before having his DJ spin hits like Frankie Beverly & Maze's 'Before I Let Go,' Jodeci's 'Come And Talk to Me' and Bell Biv Devoe's 'Poison,' at which point he took another possible shot at his curvaceous ex-girlfriend Amber Rose, stating "Never trust a big butt and a smile, why ain't I listen to the song?!"
Perhaps the most interesting section of the show were the added props. Behind a backdrop similar to that of Greek statues and dancers, who went from wearing nude bodysuits to covering the stage with white fabric, West re-emerged in an all red suit to perform 'Runaway' with Pusha T.
West's set played out like a hip-hop circus with something for everyone to enjoy. Although artistically he infused elements from previous shows, mashing them all together proved to be a good decision on his part. Ending the night well after 1AM the Grammy winner soaked up the crowd adoration seemingly fueling him to push through his final piece: the dedication to his mother. "This show tonight and every show is dedicated to one special person," he said before diving into 'Hey Mama.'
The Essence Musical Festival will be held through July 3. For more information, visit www.essence.com.
Watch Kanye West's 'Runaway'