This past weekend, thousands of fans made the trek to Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway to catch some of the hottest stars in music at this year’s annual Made in America Festival, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary in epic fashion. With Hurricane Ida having swept through the East Coast and resulting in a historic amount of flooding in the Philly area, it remained uncertain if the festival would be able to take place as workers focused on clearing out water from the Vine Street Expressway which many attendees needed to travel through while en route to the two-day event. But Mother Nature couldn’t stop the show from happening. On Saturday (Sept. 4) and Sunday (Sept. 5), crowds of music fans convened at the festival’s three stages to partake in its return since last year’s cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Day 1 of Made in America kicked off with up-and-comers Dustin Conrad, Maeta, Duke Deuce, Kaash Paige, and Pi’erre Bourne rocking the TIDAL Stage, while breakout stars like Mooray and Griselda, and Latto and Coi Leray shut down the Liberty and Rocky stages, respectively. As the show ran through the afternoon into the early evening, A$AP Ferg, Baby Keem, Fivio Foreign, and BIA—the headliner of the TIDAL Stage—carried the momentum with lively sets of their own as the sea of concert-goers prepared for that day’s marquee artists to hit the stage.
Young Thug—who appears to be gearing up for the rollout and October release of his forthcoming album, Punk—was adorned in hot pink while performing atop a life-sized spider, one of the more conspicuous contraptions spotted on the Liberty Stage during the weekend. Next up was Megan Thee Stallion, who sent the crowd into a twerk-induced euphoria with a succession of hits including “Body,” “Hot Girl Sh*t,” “Freak Nasty,” and “WAP” sans Cardi B.
From there, the crowd was treated to a surprise 20-minute set from hometown hero Meek Mill, which a number of fans had precited after claiming to have heard the Philly native conducting a soundcheck from the venue the evening prior. Introduced by his signature track, “Dreams and Nightmares,” Mill’s impromptu showing drove fans back to the Rocky Stage and included guest spots from Roddy Ricch, Bobby Shmurda, and Rowdy Rebel.
On a day filled with an ample amount of performances from rap artists, a change of pace was provided in the form of R&B star Kehlani, who delivered an intimate show that saw her getting up close and personal with the crowd while proving a masterclass in the art of fan engagement. Kehlani’s impressive outing—a bonafide highlight from the festival’s opening day—set the stage for the headliner of the evening, Lil Baby, who brought the crowd to a crescendo with an intense performance aided by a few of his collaborators and friends.
While his Voice of the Heroes collaborator Lil Durk was a no-show, Philly rep Lil Uzi Vert was brought out by the My Turn rapper during his set, with Uzi sending the Benjamin Franklin Parkway into a frenzy with his 2017 hit single, “XO Tour Llif3.” Having scored airtime on just about every major rap release of the year (and last year and the year before), Lil Baby’s status as one of the more bankable headliners in music was confirmed that night. He etched his name next to past Made in America alums like founder Jay-Z, Kanye West, Beyonce, and Rihanna with his headlining performance, a testament to his career’s historic trajectory.
The opening day of Made in America may have been a tough act to follow, but Day 2 of the festival managed to match, if not exceed, the excitement generated, presenting a murderers’ row of sets ranging the musical spectrum. If you were looking to be introduced to new, budding talent, the TIDAL Stage provided options with appearances from GBEKE and 26AR, as well as buzzworthy newcomers Capella Grey and Cazzu. For those bitten by the trap bug, current street favorites EST Gee and 42 Dugg went back-to-back with performances on the Liberty Stage, with Freddie Gibbs sandwiched in between as the opening artist on the Rocky Stage. The spirit of independence engulfed the TIDAL Stage, as Mariah The Scientist, Foushee, and Lloyd Banks rounded out the list of performers to grace it over the two-day experience, while Tinashe balanced out the vibes from the Rocky Stage.
Despite being based in Philly, Made in America’s Sunday lineup covered all corners of the country, as Lil Durk (Midwest), Bobby Shmurda (East Coast), Moneybagg Yo (South), and Roddy Ricch (Westcoast) all turned in enthralling shows of their own, making it clear that hip-hop is as homogenous as its ever been and very alive and well. From there, Made in America transitioned grooves yet again, as Doja Cat graced the Liberty Stage to wow fans with a visually captivating set of her own, which many ranked among the best of the weekend.
Arguably the biggest male pop star in the game, Justin Bieber has been embraced by the hip-hop community dating back to the time Kanye West and Raekwon laced the remix to the then-teeny bopper’s 2010 single, “Runaway Love.” Having maintained that cultural connection over the past decade, in addition to his more saccharine ballads like “Sorry,” “Lonely,” and “Anyone,” The Beibs infused his performance with a bevy of surprise appearances from the likes of Chance the Rapper, Don Tolliver, BEAM, The Kid LAROI, Quavo, and Wizkid, the latter of whom drew a resounding reception as he performed his Bieber-assisted “Essence (Remix).”
While rumored appearances by Drake and Kanye West, both of whom have dominated headlines and will continue to in the wake of the festival, never materialize, there were more than enough powerhouse performances throughout both days of Made in America to leave attendees and those viewing from home satisfied. Shying away from legacy acts to show love to the new blood currently at the forefront of hip-hop and R&B, Made in America’s ninth iteration was a direct reflection of the culture, a testament to the vision of its founder, who’s guided it from being a fledgling operation to a destination for the best that music has to offer.