Jay-Z Presents First Annual Made In America Festival
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By Ashley Coleman
From Sept. 1–2 GRAMMY-winning hip-hop pioneer Jay-Z shut down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia for the first annual Made In America music festival. The lineup featured a mashup of artists spanning rock, pop, dance/electronica, and hip-hop, and the crowd was a reflection of that diversity. I was one of thousands of festivalgoers who braved the extreme heat and rain to see artists such as Gary Clark Jr., Mayback Music Group (featuring Rick Ross, Wale and Meek Mill), Janelle Monáe, and Pearl Jam, among others, take the stage for one of music's biggest Labor Day events yet.
I arrived just in time to see Texas-based singer/guitarist Gary Clark Jr., who opened Saturday's festivities. Then I was on to Maybach Music Group's set. Before bringing Philadelphia-based rapper Mill to the stage, rapper Wale told the crowd, "When in Rome do as the Romans do, and when in Philly bring out Meek!" Mill performed a slew of hits from his recent Dreamchasers 2 mixtape. Fittingly, the self-proclaimed "Boss" Ross came out to close Maybach Music Group's set by bringing out his label's newcomer Stalley.
On the Liberty stage, Monáe did not disappoint as she appeared backed by two hooded dancers, kicking off her set with "Dance Or Die." Though the stage was set in black-and-white, Monáe's performance was full of energy and color. Next up were the Dirty Projectors, featuring the sweet harmonies of Amber Coffman and David Longstreth. Their simplistic style gave the audience a chance to soak in the lyrics to songs including "Offspring Are Blank" and "Cannibal Resource."
As I rushed back to the main stage (and jumped over a picnic or two), I made it to see Swedish indie pop trio Miike Snow. I was dazzled by smoke and lights at the start of their performance, which kicked off just a little after sunset. Their thumping drums and simple melodies made it easy to sing along to tracks such as "Bavarian #1 (Say You Will)" and "Pretender." The electronic filters added to Miike Snow's sound made the crowd roar in excitement, making them a great precursor to the high-energy set from GRAMMY winner Skrillex.
Saturday's headliner was the man behind the festival, Jay-Z. His highly anticipated performance began with the interlude from The Black Album, followed by a real-life public service announcement from President Barack Obama delivered on screen. Jay-Z then put on a performance featuring hit after hit, from 1997's In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 to 2009's The Blueprint 3.
"We've made some beautiful music here in Philadelphia," Jay-Z said before bringing out Young Chris, Freeway and Memphis Bleek to join him for a few songs, including "What We Do."
Members of G.O.O.D. Music also made an appearance, including Kanye West, Big Sean, Common, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz. Ending the set with "N****s In Paris," West and Jay-Z kept the party going, which would carry on into the following day.
Not even the light rain that held on for the majority of Sunday could deter music fans. They braved the wet and humid conditions for performances by Odd Future, Santigold and the legendary Run D.M.C. Clad in his Adidas sneakers and sweat pants, Run D.M.C.'s Rev Run gave everything he had to perform hits including "Walk This Way" and "King Of Rock." Performing under a banner that read "Jam Master Jay Forever," Run D.M.C. brought out Jam Master Jay's two sons, T.J. Mizell and Jam Master J'Son for a brief DJ set.
Philadelphia native Jill Scott captivated the afternoon crowd with her playful stage presence. Her powerful voice continued to draw a larger crowd as her set progressed and she even brought out fellow Philadelphian Eve.
During Pearl Jam's epic headlining performance, Jay-Z made an unexpected second appearance for an encore of "99 Problems."
Other artists who made a memorable impression on me included Passion Pit, Rita Ora and the Hives. Lucky for me (and other festivalgoers as well), I'll get to relive my Made In America experience with the upcoming Made In America documentary, directed by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.
(Ashley Coleman started out as a GRAMMY U member in 2006 and is currently the Membership Coordinator for The Recording Academy Philadelphia Chapter. You can keep up with her at www.writelaughdream.com.)