This year’s lineup included a slate of new-school and old-school celebrities in comedy and music.
Among them, actor/comedian Chase Anthony and the legendary Mike Epps. The two, using their charm and comedic timing to entertain the Renaissance Aruba audience for the festival’s Friday night comedy show. “One of my biggest goals has been crossed off my to-do list,” Anthony said in a Instagram post. “People close to me know how much I wanted this. Words can’t begin to express how thankful, thankful and grateful I am for this year’s performer.” Anthony currently stars as Deon on BET’s hit show “Bigger.”
With laughs already in the air, comedian and host, Chris Spencer, took the time to share a few more jokes to prepare the audience for Friday night’s comedy headliner – Mike Epps.
For almost an hour, Epps, who is perhaps well known for his roles in Next Friday, Friday After Next, All About the Benjamins and The Upshaws, took the liberty of reminding everyone that their problems are not had not traveled to Aruba with them. Instead, a warm attitude and a positive spirit awaited them for the rest of the festival.
Hip-hop artist and radio personality DJ Envy provided the music for the comedy show’s after party.
Festival organizer Mark Adkins called this year’s festival “the biggest yet” and a representative from the Aruba Tourism Authority said that due to the popularity and l appeal of the festival, more African Americans visit the island year-round. Originally, the festival’s 20th year was scheduled for May 2020, with Mariah Carey headlining. However, after the Covid-19 pandemic closed borders around the world, the festival also found itself in the dark.
“We’ve been through a lot,” said Adkins, who is comedian Sinbad’s brother. “We couldn’t have done it without our amazing partnerships.”
There was some hope that the festival would return in 2021. Bad luck.
When the announcement was made, thousands of Americans and Arubans began planning to attend.
“This is my second time at this festival,” said Durham resident and Hillside High School graduate LaShandra Scott. She and her friends traveled about 1,700 miles to enjoy all the festival had to offer. “It’s always a good time to see so many shades of melanin on the happiest island having a good time.”
Saturday and Sunday were full of beach parties during the day and soulful music at night. This year’s musical artists for the festival’s flagship year included Doug E. Fresh, Ami Mendez, Le Vogue, Ari Lennox, Kevin Ross, Mary J. Blige and all six members of New Edition.
Yes, you read that right – Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant, Bobby Brown, Michael Bivins, Ricky Bell and Ronnie DeVoe.
“I know you didn’t think I was going to make it,” Brown joked onstage during the band’s performance. “You all thought I was going to be late. ‘Watch out, Bobby won’t have the right outfit! Shoes that were too small! Well, I made it,’ he said to cheers from the crowd. . The Boston, Massachusetts-born band has a catalog full of classics that audiences knew all the lyrics to as well. Songs like “Can You Stand the Rain”, “Candy Girl”, “Cool It Now”, “If It Isn’t Love” and “Mr. Telephone Man”.
Dreamville’s Ari Lennox, who has a residency in Cary, performed his hit album Shea Butter Baby for almost an hour.
On her song, “New Apartment,” from that same album, Lennox sings about an apartment in Cary, North Carolina that she had recently moved into.
Lennox gracefully hits the listener with these lines: “I could just read a book, I don’t need no cable/Blast Selena, “El Toro Relajo”/And everything stays where I leave it/Every damn rule I created/A dollar tree a glass of wine is in the air/André will lead me there/I’m not afraid of the dark anymore/Because this luminous bill has changed my heart.”
“You’re so transparent and that’s what makes you so approachable,” KJLH radio host Adai Lamar said during a post-show press conference with Lennox. “Your album is in full rotation,” she said.
Singer-songwriter Kevin Ross took to the stage Saturday night with a collection of hits from his “Audacity” projects and single “Long Song Away.” Ross’ tone is almost perfect for putting festival-goers in the right mood for Grammy Award-winning artist Mary J. Blige. Speaking with Lamar about the meaning of “Hello, gorgeous,” Blige recalled, “…just talking to myself, ‘Hello beautiful, hello gorgeous, hello talented, hello adorable…everything I wanted to be… just to find love for myself.”
The aim is for the festival to return in 2023. A date has yet to be announced.
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