Everything You Missed At Girls United Kickback

Welcome to the auntie free after party

Essence Festival attendees stood outside The Sugar Mill, where Essence GU held its first Kickback: The Auntie Free After Party. The Essence Girls United Kickback party is the brand’s first dive into nightlife. A 2000s take on Afrofuturism, the Sugar Mill space was transformed into a colorful, dynamic room that was literally out of this world. 

Light smoke filled the air from the spaceship-themed bar at the back of the room. Fluorescent strobe lights and walkways were placed around, curating a hazy, colorful air and contributing to the night-out vibe. The event partnered with the New Orleans creative collective, Drink Free Water. 

Just after 10 PM, guests crowded in, stopping at the bar and quickly lining up for the many photo activations around the room. DJ Arie Spins kicked off the evening with a mix of R&B and trendy rap songs catching the attention of two cousins, Marlina and Martika, who danced from the beginning to the end of the set. The Kickback was their first Essence Festival event of the weekend and their first ever. “We’ve already had two drinks and were just like, ‘shoot, we don’t have kids, why not?” Marlina said.

Though curated for Gen-Z EssenceFest-comers, people of all ages filled the space. Influencers, birthday girls, tourists, and even New Orleans natives vibed out. Ironically enough, the aunties were the true party. Before wrapping up, DJ Arie Spins welcomed the growing crowd to New Orleans. Bounce music blasted through the speakers. Drinks flowed. Guests loosened up. The party began.

Rapper, 504IcyGrl, took the Kickback stage in a custom, NOLA-inspired Evisu look. Embodying the Y2K theme, her hair was styled in a half-up, half-down, pin-up paired with bamboo earrings and a French-tip nail set you’d only find in 2002. Between her hit songs “Givin’” and “H*es Don’t Like,” the self-proclaimed Princess of New Orleans emphasized her excitement to perform at Essence Fest for the first time. 

Mid-performance, 504Icygirl disappeared, allowing her two dancers the spotlight. Dressed in airbrushed white tanks and black, almost booty-shorts, the two girls brought real New Orleans vibes to the Kickback, dancing to bounce music the way only NOLA girls can. The rapper brought her boyfriend, PoppyH, to the stage for a high-energy performance of their song “Headache” before closing out.

DJ Spinnelli carried on the lit vibes playing Vicky Lo and Sexyy Red. Between artists, guests remained persistent on their photo-ops around The Sugar Mill. Over in the VIP Experience, Chemin, a black-owned fragrance brand, hosted a pop-up where you could curate a custom perfume from six different notes. Heavily passed hors d’oeuvres circulated along with special gift bags and goodies. 

The energy in the building naturally ebbed and flowed before it was time for the night’s headliner: Ken the Man. The Houston native woke the girls up, to say the least, with her singles “He Be Like” and “Not My N*gga.” Laughter, slight twerking, and a series of rapping to Instagram stories were consistent throughout the audience. DJ Rakimbeau got the remaining guests on their feet one last time by mixing R&B classics with Rap and Afrobeats.

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