Thursday 10:50 p.m.
Earlier this year, Sony Legacy released the 20th anniversary edition of rapper Nas’ album debut, “Illmatic.” Rolling Stone dubbed “Illmatic” “one of rap’s crowning achievements.” NPR Music described it as a “masterwork of storytelling, lyricism and beat-making.”
Nas, the son of jazz trumpeter Olu Dara, emerged from the rap-heavy Long Island City neighborhood in Queens. He’s sold more than 20 million albums worldwide. His 2012 album, “Life Is Good,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200. “Life Is Good” became his sixth No. 1 album. It’s four Grammy nominations pushed the rapper’s total Grammy nominations to 13.
Friday 10:30 p.m.
Prince previously appeared at the Essence Festival in 2004, the festival’s 10th anniversary. He returns as Friday’s main stage headliner for the festival’s 20th anniversary.
Among the most versatile, prolific and successful artists in music through the past 30 years, Price’s classic albums include 1982’s “1999,” 1984’s “Purple Rain,” 1987’s “Sign ’O’ the Times” and 1991’s “Diamond and Pearls.” A new album, “Plectrumelectrum,” is apparently ready for release. It features Prince’s new, all-female band, 3rd Eye Girl. As if to prepare the way for the album, Prince made a guest appearance on an episode of the Zooey Deschanel-starring series, “New Girl,” following this year’s Super Bowl.
Mary J. Blige
Saturday 11:30 p.m.
Following sales of than 50 million albums and nine Grammy awards, neo-soul star Mary J. Blige’s latest album is the soundtrack from the hit movie comedy, “Think Like a Man Too.” The tracks include a collaboration with Pharrell Williams, “See That Boy Again.”
New York City native Blige found her influences in classic soul singers Gladys Knight and Aretha Franklin. Her album debut, 1992’s “What’s the 411?,” yielded the hits “You Remind Me” and “Real Love.” More hits followed with the release of 1994’s “My Life,” including “Be Happy” and “I’m Goin’ Down.” In the 22 years since her debut, Blige has more than earned her title as the queen of hip-hop soul.
Sunday 11 p.m.
Lionel Richie’s stardom dates to the 1970s, when he was a member of the Commodores. After writing and recording hits such as “Three Times A Lady,” “Lady” and “Easy,” Richie went solo in 1981. Rivaling the success of Michael Jackson, he released 13 Top 10 hits in space of six years, nine of which reached No. 1.
Richie’s career achievements include 100 million albums sold, five Grammy awards, an Oscar and a Golden Globe and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His 2012 album, “Tuskegee,” features re-makes of his classics hits as duets with country stars Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker, Shania Twain, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw and Blake Shelton. It reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200.