New Edition Reuniting at Essence Music Festival

06/29/2011 at 01:50 PM EDT

Essence Music Festival - New Edition Reunites
From left: Ronnie DeVoe, Michael Bivins, Ricky Bell, Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill and Ralph Tresvant of New Edition on February 7, 1994
Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage
After 30 years of albums, turmoil and solo projects, New Edition is finally reuniting July 3 at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans.

The last time all six members of the group stood harmoniously onstage was in 1996 for the release of their album Home Again.

The group has tried to reunite several times in the past, but conflict and erratic behavior by notorious singer Bobby Brown has hindered a successful comeback. Yet, Brown insists the past is behind the group. "We're just working on us and our friendship," he tells PEOPLE.

Along with fellow members Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant, Michael Bivins, Ricky Bell and Ronnie DeVoe, Brown is optimistic about the reunion.



"All of us are psyched about it," he says.

The group hopes to rekindle some of the chemistry that sold more than 40 million records worldwide during their 10-album career. "We're grown men, and we're able to talk and argue and pray and laugh," Brown says. "There's a lot of laughter [because] we remember some of the crazy times, and it's just funny to us now that we were able to make it past all of those crazy times and be able to come together as grown men and make this business happen."

The festival kicks off July 1 and expects thousands to turn out for concerts by Usher, Jennifer Hudson, Kanye West, Mary J. Blige and more!

Reporting by MARISA LAUDADIO and DEBRA LEWIS-BOOTHMAN

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