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Made In America Day One: Jamie XX, Jay Electronica, Car Seat Headrest and more

Jay Electronica at Made in America | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN
Jay Electronica at Made in America | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

If you love hip-hop, if you love R&B, and if you want to sprinkle some local flair in between, this year’s Made in America festival is for you.

The first day of the two-day extravaganza on the Ben Franklin Parkway was packed with huge names; Rihanna closed off the day with a set that was nothing short of legendary, but amazing sets went down right from the beginning of the day all the way to closing; Symone and C-Kan opened up two of the smaller stages with powerhouse vocals and Spanish flows to rival the American ones of Eminem and Kendrick. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Maureen Walsh’s best music videos of 2016

David Bowie’s Blackstar | still from video

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, contributing writer Maureen Walsh recaps five of the year’s best music videos.

While the music video is no longer a requirement in order for audiences to discover an artist’s work, it is still a viable way for them to give us a visual representation of a mood, a way to supplement the song they have created, and also a way to promote their art.

Since not everyone is creating videos, those that do normally do so because they have a great idea for one. 2016 brought us videos that were weighty and visually striking. Water and rebirth were the theme of the vast majority of videos I picked on my list. 2016 was a bummer of a year for many, let’s hope the waters of healing reinvigorate us for 2017. Continue reading →

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How I survived my first Made In America festival

Made in America | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

Earlier this month, the 2016 Made in America Festival took to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philly for two days; you can see our full photo coverage here and here. Today, our Lissa Alicia comes to us with her full experiential account of the Philly megafestival; highs and lows alike.

This year’s Made In America fest was my very first one, and I was not at all prepared for what was in store for me that weekend. By no means was this my first rodeo (festival). Earlier this year I attended The Roots Picnic. In the past I have hit up both Governors Ball, Mad Decent Block Party, and Afropunk Festivals. Attending those festivals were for pleasure. Although I was looking forward to Made In America, I was work minded since I was covering the show. I am only 25, so I figured moderate energy and a banana for breakfast would get me through day one. I mean I did survive moshing and raving at Mad Decent while nursing a legendary hangover and only existing on half a blueberry muffin. I guess I am too old for all that jazz now. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Dotun Akintoye’s 50 best songs of 2014

Young Thug appears five times in various forms on Dotun's list | photo via facebook.com/youngthugmusic
Young Thug appears five times in various forms on Dotun’s list | photo via facebook.com/youngthugmusic

Year-End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2014 awesome. In this installment, Key contributor Dotun Akintoye shares his 50 best songs of 2014.

There was more pleasurable music than any sane person could consume this year, so when something caught my attention, I made a little note. I’ve narrowed those notes down to these 50 tracks. Some unwittingly fulfill my post hoc arbitrary categories; sharpest top 40 hit (“Girls Chase Boys”) street/cyberspace surprise of the year (“Hot N*gga”), some I regard as the standouts from much heralded albums (“Huey Newton,” “Suffering”), some are standouts from neglected albums (“The Brink,” “Anthem”), others are relatively obscure one-offs (“Timbuktu”), all are songs I thought or argued about, tried to foist on others with varying levels of success, danced to or sang/rapped with, and played repeatedly in a year when that meant missing the latest jam du jour. Continue reading →

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Reacting to a controversial verse by Made In America Festival artist Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick-LamarConsidered one of the most talented arrivals to the rap scene, Kendrick Lamar was applauded for his 2012 debut, good kid, M.A.A.D city. The record was honest and undecorated, served with a sublime poetic lyricism that’s been hard to find in contemporary hip hop. It was personal, and it was unusually beautiful.

But last week, Lamar has been recognized for an entirely different reason: criticism of fellow hip hop artists. The California wordsmith appeared on a Big Sean track titled “Control,” which premiered on Monday and included the talents of in-the-shadows rapper, Jay Electronica.

And it was here that Lamar chose to call out no less than eleven rappers, including Philadelphia’s Meek Mill and Pittsburgh’s Mac Miller – and rather ironically, the very artists with whom Lamar had collaborated on the track, Big Sean and Jay Electronica. Continue reading →

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Made In America – Day One Review and pictures

Photo via http://www.facebook.com/MadeInAmericaFest

Yesterday was the first day of Jay-Z’s Made In America festival. Overall, the festival delivered on the promise of a fantastic, eclectic lineup, and a fun experience on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. The seemingly mostly under-30, racially mixed crown (upwards to 50,000) filled the Parkway for nine hours of music that alternated between two stages and a DJ tent. Gary Clark, Jr started the day on the Rocky Stage (the main stage at the feet of the Art Museum steps), and ended with an incredible set from Jay-Z (wearing a Brooklyn Nets cap) with special guests Kanye West, and his G.O.O.D record label pals Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Pusha T, and Common. Earlier in the set, Jay-Z brought out Memphis Bleek, Swiss Beatz, Young Chris and Freeway. From the start of Jay’s set (with a snippet of “Made In America”) to the set closer “N—– In Paris,” it was an historic moment in rap music.

The festival atmosphere was energetic, hot and slightly breezy, and even with the large attendance, it didn’t seem too overcrowded. There was plenty of police presence but the police reported no major and a just a few minor problems during the day. There were food trucks alongside local favorites Tony Lukes and Chickie & Pete’s, a local market featuring local artists and crafts, and plenty of water stations offering refills.

Aside from the star studded headliners for the day, musical standouts included an absolutely fantastic set from Janelle Monae (including a terrific cover of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back), Gary Clark, Jr., rapper Jay Electronica, Passion Pit, D’Angelo and Skrillex, who DJ’d in a spaceship in front of a breathtaking light and screen show. Skrillex performed on the side stage (the Liberty Stage) yet should have performed on the main stage. As one of dub step’s poster DJ’s right now, Skrillex’s show was a pleasant shock of high energy beats and drops and reggae that was massively fun.

Skrillex in his space ship. Photo by Getty Images
Gary Clark Jr. photo by Getty Images

The musical highlight of the day though was the hour and 1/2 set by Jay-Z and his special guests. Jay delivered a hit filled set (“99 Problems.” “Empire State of Mind,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” “What We Do” (with Freeway), “Encore,” “Izzo (H.O.V.A),” “Excuse Me Miss,” “Run This Town,” and more. Jay is an impeccable showman and was backed by a funky, flawless live band. He introduced Kanye West and along with Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Pusha T, and Common they performed new songs including “Mercy,” and “New God Flow.” The crowd sang along with almost every song (Common’s “The Light” was a standout) and the evening came to a close with a fireworks display behind the set over the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Jay-Z photo by Charles Sykes, via AP

Today’s lineup at MIA includes headliners Pearl Jam, Drake, Odd Future, DJ Shadow, The Hives, Santigold, Run DMC and more. Go here for more information about today’s show.