The ninth annual Jazz in the Gardens music festival is off to a rousing start and is heating up South Miami.
The star-studded event kicked off on Friday, March 14th at Calder Casino, continued Saturday at Sun Life stadium, and will continue through tonight, with gates opening at 3 p.m.
Legendary hip-hop M.C. Doug E. Fresh kicked off the festival Friday afternoon at the Jazz in the Gardens press conference, where he addressed the current state of hip-hop, and opened up about working with the White House and first lady Michelle Obama on the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit.
The 47-year-old rapper also delivered an impromptu beatboxing performance all about the Obamas.
On Saturday, comedian D.L. Hughley entertained the thousands packed into Sun Life Stadium while introducing festival headliners Boney James, Mint Condition, Kelly Roland, Trey Songz and Jamie Foxx.
Eighty-seven-year-old actor and civil rights icon Harry Belafonte and funnyman Kevin Hart also attended last night’s festivities.
Hughley spoke about the impact of Jazz in Gardens in the midst of battles over South Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws and in the aftermath of the highly publicized Trayvon Martin trial.
“I think the state of Florida has the reputation of being a place that that isn’t very friendly to people who are of color or people who are poor,” Hughley said. “So I think it’s nice to see those kind of people all together and having a good time. I think nothing tells a story like music and I think it’s nice to see everyone together and showing that we all want to the same things.”
Former Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland brought festival attendees to their feet performing several of her hits including “Motivation,” “Dirty Laundry,” and “Commander.”
Rowland told that she felt great being on stage in Miami, which she considers her home.
One of the biggest surprises of the night was when rapper Nelly appeared onstage alongside Rowland to perform “Dilemma,” the Grammy-winning hit the pair released more than a decade ago.
“I asked [Nelly] to stop here, and he came by. I’m just so happy that it was surprise,” Rowland said. “I kept it a surprise because I wanted to do something special for Miami. I live here, so I have to.”
Rowland added that following their successful Jazz in the Gardens performance, she would be willing to collaborate with Nelly for another installment of “Dilemma.”
“When we get in the studio it’s really easy for us to collaborate, so I would love something like that,” she said.
With one day left, the festival is already a huge success.
Festival organizers estimate this year’s attendance will exceed 65,000, topping last year’s total of 63,000.
The tour, which will reach colleges, local festivals and events across the country, is a cornerstone of MSNBC’s year-long national “Growing Hope” initiative inviting people to share hopes for their community and speak out about issues that matter to them.