Big Chief Walter “Sugar Bear” Landry, Jr. of the Black Mohawks Mardi Gras Indians has been masking since the early ’50s, when his grandmother’s boyfriend first began teaching the young Landry Indian traditions. Over the next six decades, Landry would see many changes within, and outside of, the Mardi Gras Indian culture. “It taught me,” Landry says with a laugh, “that if you stick with something long enough, eventually you’ll succeed.” The Black Mohawks are a family tribe, made up of Landry’s sons, grandsons and great-grandsons, with their own unique sound and traditions. On Friday, July 1, Landry and the Black Mohawks perform in a rare live concert at House of Blues opening for New Orleans rap acts Mystikal, Juvenile and Cupid. “This isn’t a usual thing, Indians performing onstage at House of Blues with rappers,” Big Chief Landry says. “I’m sure we’ll get some static about it from some people but it’s gonna be quite a show.”
Once again at the top of his game, in recent years Mystikal has moved further toward a live band sound, recording 2015’s mega-hit “Feel Right” with super-producer Mark Ronson and performing at Jazz Fest 2016 in front of a soul/funk band. Juvenile continues his rigorous touring schedule as a leading voice in southern rap, performing sold-out shows that meld his Cash Money hits with new songs that display a different side of his musicality. Cupid continues his reign as a dance-centric performer widely in demand both in New Orleans and throughout the South. The July 1 concert, called “Welcome to Our City: New Orleans Unplugged” makes this Essence Fest–edition concert a unique one dedicated to the sounds and cultural traditions of New Orleans. Also joining them onstage are No Limit/Beats by the Pound producer KLC, DJ Captain Charles, comedian Rude Jude, Caren Green, Young Juve (the son of Juvenile) and the Stooges Brass Band.