On paper, the second day of this year’s Made In America festival was the stronger lineup — it had Kendrick, Nicki, Pusha, Miguel, and those were just the top-billed names. The way it played out was a bit different, with equipment malfunctions (and wardrobe malfunctions) scattered across the day. It felt at a point like we were alternating between artists who had their act incredibly together, and those who did not, and though it was a mixed bag, it was a lot of fun to sort through. Here’s what we heard and saw.
In a series of interesting events, Camden rapper Mir Fontane, who had the 1 p.m. slot on the skate stage (secretly the best slot at the festival for an up-and-coming artist), began throwing autographed containers of Easy Mac into the crowd in the mix alongside his songs. At one point, he handed over the mic to a fan in the crowd to focus solely on distributing the mac and cheese.
Over at the Tidal stage, Saweetie blessed us with her presence. Armed with four backup dancers, the Bay Area rapper started her set off with album title track “High Maintenance,” she followed up with a rise-and-grind, boss bitch anthem based on Khia’s X-rated classic “My Neck, My Back.” Chairs were placed onto the stage as Saweetie and her backup dancers gave up a seductive routine on the plastic, probably not that sturdy, chairs.
Next up was next generation Philly rapper Zahsosaa, who inspiration clearly comes from the one and only Lil Uzi Vert. Armed with bottles of Dasani, water was raining down on the crowd, who was bouncing up and down in unison in Sixers jerseys and short shorts. Clad in some pretty sweet black-and-white denim (and a Yankees jersey, an odd choice for a Philly crowd), he performed his top track “Humble,” and paid tribute to the late XXXTentacion.
Over at the Liberty stage, yet another Pennsylvania native Lil Skies seemed happy to be home, bursting out with a huge smile on his face. Flexin’ at all times, Lil leaped onto the ground and was real close, almost eye-level, with the crowd. Running from point A to B, he was in constant motion as he spit “I Know You” and “Creeping.” Again, a tribute was paid to XXXTentacion with a cover of “Sad!” and “Moonlight,” and the crowd created one big mosh pit in response.
A late addition to the lineup, Philly MC Kur brewed up a storm on the Skate Stage, opening on his recently released track “I’m Back” which he delivered with intensity. The local artist has created a solid following in recent years and we imagine it’ll continue to grow, as Kur told the crowd that another EP, as well as a full-length album, was on the way.
Ty Dolla $ign rolled up on stage with a motorcycle entrance, which is the most Philly thing I saw all day. Unfazed by the sound issue plague (it took three mics before he got to a working one), the Atlantic-signed rapper opened on a slowed-down, a capella version of his playful track “Pineapple” from his 2017 LP Beach House 3. The hip-hop hooksmith’s mood was not dampened by the technical difficulties; he carried on his set like nothing wrong happening, like a total pro, performing with ease and left the crowd feeling “Wavy.”
Conscious political rapper JPEGMafia got real dirty, reppin’ the dark side of Baltimore, and he was constantly dropping to the grimy ground on and off the stage. On “Real N—a,” he hopped directly into the middle of the crowd and bodies immediately crowded around him as he rolled around in a type of disoriented trance. Aggressively thrashing around, he gave a performance that tore up your ears with “Fuck Tears.” I was honestly left speechless by his set.
For the second consecutive year, Pusha T has taken the Rocky Stage. In his set, King Push gave the audience the whole “The Daytona Experience,” performing the album in its entirety. He stormed the stage with the leading track “If You Know, You Know.” Along with that, he did “Santeria” and the Drake diss track “Infrared” from the so-called best album to come out of 2018, stated by Pusha himself. Pusha also paid his respects to Philadelphia, stating that the home of MIA is “Definitely a rap capital.” Ending on a high note, he brought back multiple collaborative tracks he’s been on including “Mercy” and “Don’t Like”.
Daniel Caesar was an experience. Beginning with a soulful verse from “Hold Me Down,” his back-up singing took the lead and he delicately eased his way in, giving us a little bit of spoken word poetry. For the true fans (me), the Toronto-born singer/songwriter followed up with a throwback from 2015 titled “Violet.” During his performance, the sun settled down and a hint of a breeze passed as he pulled his guitar out for “Best Part” and “We Found Love.” “Paradise” finished the show, showcasing the true range of his vocals. Every harmony was perfectly executed throughout his performance and swooped the audience off their feet and minds in the cloud. Side Note: mid way through the set, I got called out by two security guards for knowing every single word to every single song.
Though Made In America got slammed in some circles this year for not having enough rock, Baltimore hardcore band Turnstile made up for it with a set that was possibly the low-key most energetic thing at the festival. Fans at the skate stage were slam dancing and kicking up dust.
Alessia Cara was all smiles yesterday and charmed the crowd with her solid hits “Stay” and “Here.” and performed a few track from her debut album, Know-It-All, including “Wild Things” and “Scars to Your Beautiful.” She had the audience singing along, and partly crying, when she sang the famous Disney song “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana, which is heard in the film’s credits. I’ll admit, I was 100% crying.
The high point of the day came from a late-afternoon set from singer-songwriter-dancer and stylish gentleman Miguel, who showcased music from last year’s War and Leisure, as well as his back-catalogue. With seven musicians accompanying him, he moved between a riser and the edge of the stage, commanded the crowd’s attention, and as much as his songs are deeply sexual, he also used his moments of banter to champion consent, saying “Fellas, keep your motherfuckin hands to yourself, unless she gave you permission.”
California’s Hobo Johnson and the Lovemakers rose to internet success on the strength of their viral Tiny Desk Contest submission; in person, it comes across like a mix of hardcore punk ragers like La Dispute, with coffeehouse bongo folk-pop, with comedy…and the fans loved it.
Kendrick Lamar truly never disappoints. Last night, the Compton rapper took the Made In America stage with his legendary flow and beats as he came swinging in with his 2017 track “D.N.A”. His visuals are to be noted; black and red filled the Rocky Stage then suddenly light flashed as he drove his way into “King Kunta” from his 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly. During his act, “Pulitzer Kenny” was projected on the screen to remind everyone of his Pulitzer Prize for last year’s DAMN. He performed oldies like “Backseat Freestyle,” “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” and of course, “m.A.A.d. City,” where it felt like the entire festival leapt up in unison. The crowd also got a little surprise when recently Atlantic signed Philly rapper Bri Steves joined Kendrick on stage to perform her summer-time track “Jealousy”.
L.A. based DJ Thomas Wesley Pentz, known as Diplo, was throwing out throwbacks all night long, playing Huey’s 2007 “Pop, Lock & Drop It”, “Work” by A$AP Ferg, Beyoncé’s girl boss anthem “Run the World,” and so many more…including a remix of the Six Flags theme song. His light show was a work of art harmonizing with every song. His own originals “Express Yourself” and “Where Are Ü Now” were thrown into the mix as well, along with “Wake Me Up,” a tribute to the fallen DJ Avicii. Drops after drops, Diplo did not stop and neither did the crowd…even though they did seem to be getting winded when his set went 25 minutes over its scheduled end time. It’s unclear whether he was stalling for headliner Nicki Minaj, as the Inquirer reports, or if he was simply taking up space.
As soon as I saw the banner with the word “Queen” on it, I knew it was time for Nicki Minaj’s festival-closing performance. The New York rapper rebounded from an unfortunate wardrobe gaffe involving her dress and her chest, and took full control of the stage. She performed multiple hit singles such as “Feeling Myself,” “Monster” and “Truffle Butter,” and mixed in a couple of impromptu moments where the setlist was flipped because she was feeling “sexy.” The collaborative “Motorspot” was cut short (a Cardi dis?) and Minaj brought five audience members on stage for a twerking contest, which was ridiculous fun. There were multiple guest appearances as well, including Lil Uzi Vert, Tekashi 6ix9ine and A$AP Ferg. Each of them performed the Nicki song they featured on, as well as one of their own solo numbers. Nicki closed the two day festival with “This Moment” which was followed by a show of fireworks.