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The most important lesson from day one of Essence Fest is Babyface is the man

Driadonna Roland

 // Jul 2, 2016

Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds is a living legend for countless reasons, not the least of which being: a) you were probably created to a song he wrote or produced, and b) he handcrafted the sound of R&B for two solid decades. The man has 11 Grammys and more than 25 No. 1 R&B hits, and he hit the Essence Fest stage on day one to remind us all of those facts.

Babyface was part of a stacked lineup in New Orleans' Mercedes-Benz Superdome that included Faith Evans, Tyrese, New Edition (check them out in the video below) and Maxwell. New Edition, whose first single,"Candy Girl," came out in 1983, always put on an amazing show. Try not to die before seeing them live. Maxwell is in his element onstage and gets comfortable like it's just you and him in the room. So see him live, too! But, Babyface — 57-year-old Babyface! — was the highlight of the night.

Not just because he broke out his classics, such as "Whip Appeal," "Never Keeping Secrets," and "Soon As I Get Home."

Not just because he took the time to pay tribute to Frankie Beverly and Maze. They usually close Essence Fest every year, and have been a premier touring band on the festival circuit for ages. (In fact, they probably have some tips for all the new festivals popping up lately.) Babyface called the Superdome "the house that Frankie built" before launching into their feel-good classic "Before I Let Go."

Not only because he took us through a timeline of hits he penned for other folks in the game. He gave emotional performances of each song, giving the sense that he put his heart into his music (not just because they were love songs), whether he sang it or not.

From Bobby Brown's "Rock Wit'cha" to Dru Hill's "We're Not Making Love" to even "My, My, My" by his fellow headliner Johnny Gill — the hits did not stop coming.

But because he did something no one in the entire Superdome expected. He started coming out of his sparkly black suit jacket. Then he unbuttoned his shirt. Next thing we knew, Mr. "For the Cool In You," a man who always appeared laid-back, maybe even shy, opened his shirt all the way and ran around the Superdome floor! While singing "End of the Road," Babyface took his victory lap, which was decades in the making.

Here's another view:

In conclusion, Babyface shut it down, and it was only the first day.

And here's your New Edition highlight. More dispatches from Essence Fest 2016 to come!

Insider Access | New Edition invades Essence Fest 2016
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