Festivals/Fairs, Live Music

New Orleans As All Pell: Rapper Turns In Impressive Essence Show

The rapper shined in his hometown Essence Fest set

Pell might be an Angeleno as far as the postman is concerned, but he still calls New Orleans home. The rapper we previously highlighted as one of our must-see local acts as Essence put on a show with an appropriately strong homecoming vibe.

Local band Cool Nasty gave Pell’s showing a much more full-throated sound than the average DJ-backed hip-hop set, while only adding to the layers on layers of 504 in the half-full Superlounge. Pell and the band gamely ran through a slew of NOLA classics, putting their spin on everything from “Still Fly” to “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!” They let everyone know that the rapper was serious when he said “it’s a throwback, throwback, throwback” on his sproingy, Saba-assisted hit.

The crowd, for their part, were appreciative of Pell’s efforts. They lost it on cue to his new tracks and legendary local hits with equal fervor. And the rapper bounced around the stage with such infectious excitement that you could almost forget that a significant portion of the crowd were his friends and family (who he shouted out from the stage).

By the end of the set, it was easy to feel a little torn. On the one hand, it’s clear that New Orleans is willing to support its own and show out for a great time regardless of whether or not the rest of the world is watching. But Pell’s talent and dexterous, off-kilter delivery is such that the world should hear what he has to say.

To that end, Pell might have underlined a way forward for himself and other New Orleans musicians. While it read as one more bit of hometown pride, Pell’s decision to bring out PJ Morton for a surprise duet of the Gumbo track “Claustrophobic” was a nod toward the outside world.

The track itself deals with refusing to change anything about yourself in order to appease other people. If you do it well enough, the outsiders will come around to your way of thinking. It clearly worked in PJ’s case and the musician has given a leg up to other New Orleans artists as his star has risen. With friends like Morton and shows like this, it might only be a matter of time before our side-stage secret is out.


This article was published on July 7, 2018. A technical problem is causing an earlier date to show at this time.