Feb 18, 11:31 AM EST

Essence Fest 2015: Lineup includes Kevin Hart, Common, Mary J. Blige, newcomer Kendrick Lamar

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The 2015 Essence Festival will feature Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, comedian Kevin Hart, Common and Trombone Shorty, among others, on its main stage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

Festival officials announced Wednesday that Hart will headline the three-day festival's opening on Thursday, July 2. The festival first presented a smaller Thursday night event, with reduced seating and only one stage, in 2014.

Other acts booked for the 2015 Essence include homegrown rapper Mystikal, plus Kool Moe Dee, Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, Floetry, jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding, Kelly Price, Bilal, and such local acts as Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk and Tank & the Bangas.

Additional acts for both the main stage and the four secondary "superlounge" stages should be announced in the coming weeks.

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