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On Thursday night singing sensation Solange surprised guests attending the premiere party for HBO’s Bessie with a surprise performance at Millwick in Los Angeles.

The event capped off HBO’s Bessie 81 Theatre Tour which kicked off  in NYC with a surprise performance from Janelle Monae, and also featured a new artist showcase (with King, Kehlani and Tiffany Gouche) and a workshop for aspiring musicians with top songwriter Stacy Barthe and acclaimed Grammy-winning producer Brian Michael Cox.

HipHollywood was on hand for the Los Angeles activities and spoke with Barthe and Cox about why Bessie’s story needed to be told. “I feel like I am Bessie,” said Barthe. “From refusing to play second fiddle … to being sexually ambiguous. I just feel her.”

Directed by Dee Rees, the film follows the story of Bessie Smith, one of the first singers to break racial barriers in the 1920s. Queen Latifah stars and executive produced the film and told us it was a huge role to step into.

“She inspired everybody from Janis Joplin and Rolling Stones to Mahalia Jackson for that matter. You name it, she inspired them. It was really a beautiful thing to step into her shoes and tell her story.”

Bessie also stars Mo’Nique, Michael K. Williams, Tika Sumpter, Khandi Alexander and Mike Epps. be sure to check it out on on HBO  May 16th.

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