Being somewhat new to the Philadelphia area and music scene, I didn’t know what to expect with my first Made In America experience. This notorious festival which is curated by Jay-Z and produced by Roc Nation is known to draw big crowds to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway every year. This two-day festival held on Labor Day weekend mixes huge headlining acts on the main stages with up-and-coming artists on smaller stages, creating an interesting music environment.
Upon entering the festival, I was surprised to see how young the crowd in attendance was. Despite feeling too old to be at a festival for the first time in my life, the younger, rowdier crowd didn’t faze me much and I thought the overall energy of the event was great.
In addition to having four separate stages for music, the festival ground also had big areas for food vendors, art displays, a Ferris wheel, and my favorite part, the Cause Village. This area of vendors promoting philanthropic causes and social actions felt unique to Made in America and genuinely “Philly.”
The most important part of a music festival however is obviously the music, and this year’s lineup did not disappoint. Rappers Cardi B and Travis Scott headlined Saturday and Sunday night. Both Cardi and Scott have previously played the Made In America festival in years prior at smaller stages and earlier set times so it was fun to see them move their way up into a headlining slot.
You can say what you want about Cardi B, but in my opinion she put on the most exciting set of the entire festival. Everything from her flashy outfit, crazy monologues, and stripper inspired twerk sessions was absolutely entertaining. Is she the best singer out there? No. Are her songs the most inspiring? Probably not. But Cardi B put on a total show for her fans and I loved every bit of it.
Travis Scott’s Sunday night set was also pretty exciting to watch. Scott, who recently released a documentary of his tour life called “Look Mom I Can Fly” on Netflix, is known for his crazy live performances. His shows are full of stunts, crowd surfing and stage diving and in 2017 Scott was actually arrested for inciting a riot when his show in Rodgers, Ark. got out of hand. Nothing this crazy happened at Made In America thankfully, but I would say his pit of dedicated fans was the craziest crowd I witnessed over the weekend.
Aside from Travis Scott’s show, other popular sets on Sunday included Lizzo and Lil Uzi Vert. Lizzo’s hit song “Truth Hurts” currently sits at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 despite it being released over two years ago. Lizzo stopped multiple times during her set to preach about loving yourself and body positivity. Her messages of encouragement made for a memorable Made In America moment. Philly native Lil Uzi Vert also gave a special show, drawing in a lot of hometown fans.
Ironically many of the standout acts from this year’s Made In America festival were not actually from America. Some of the solo artists including Grace Carter, James Blake, Jacob Banks, and Jorja Smith are British singers. Smith and Banks were my personal favorites of this mix, both being R&B singers who are known for their soulful sound.
Other memorable performances were by pop singer Bazzi, rappers Gucci Mane and Juice WRLD, and R&B vocalist and rapper Anderson Paak. Paak’s backing band, The Free Nationals, also shared the Made In America stage with him. His vocals paired with the special instrumentation of the band really made for a vibey set that had the crowd dancing.
Article and Photographs by: Olivia Burger