Labor Day Weekend in Philadelphia got the ultimate upgrade this year. Rap mogul Jay-Z brought his Made In America Festival to the”City of Brotherly Love” for the first time. Judging from the size of the crowds, this won’t be the last time they put on the two-day event.
Almost 50,000 people packed Benjamin Franklin Park to listen to a wide variety of music from Prince Royce, Passion Pit and Pearl Jam to D’Angelo, Jill Scott and Drake. In between breaks patrons snacked on crab fries, simosas, funnel cake, beer and Powerade. When things got too hot, sponsored tents provided misting fans, a/c and a even a place to charge your phone.
Day One started with a bang. Up and coming artist Gary Clark Jr (read about him here) took the stage on day one to start Saturday’s set. Clark’s sound is a mix of R&B vocals over rough rock guitars. While many attendees didn’t know who he was before he performed, his name was on the lips of quite a few fans after his 45 minute set was finished.
Things got considerably more grimy when the boys of the boys of Maybach Music hit the Rocky Stage. Wale, Rick Ross, and hometown hero Meek Mill turned the audience’s energy all the way up. After running through tracks from their respective mixtapes and the Self Made projects, MMG went into their most beloved verses. “I’m A Boss” and “BMF” received the most reaction from the audience. There was no room to move except to jump up and down, spill your $11 Budweiser and scream lyrics.
Continuing on the R&B tip, Janelle Monae put on an electrifying show. She performed her hits including “Tightrope” and “Sincerely Jane,” and whipped fans into a frenzy when she performed a rendition of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”
D’Angelo was slightly disappointing. While his voice was there and he had loads of funkdified energy, he rearranged some of his most famous songs to the point they were unrecognizable. An extended rendition of “Chicken Grease” did not pop in the Summer heat.
The main event of Jay-Z performing on the Rocky Steps was definitely the highlight of the first day. After an opening message from President Barack Obama Jay kept the momentum going with a litany of his classics. Jigga paid his respect to the city of Philadelphia by performing almost every song he mentioned them in, including the relatively obscure “Murder Marcyville.”
Given the venue it was only right that the Philly continent of The Roc were on hand to perform. Freeway, Chris, and Neef bounded to the stage and rocked the crowd while performing “What We Do.” Swizz Beatz came out and brought the house to their already hurting feet for “On To The Next One” before Jay ran through some of his other hits like “I Just Wanna Love You” and “99 Problems.”
Just when you thought a Jay-Z show couldn’t get any better, he vacated the stage for a cool half hour to allow G.O.O.D. Music to rock. Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T, Common, and 2 Chainz ripped through their respective songs then performed the singles off the upcoming compilation project Cruel Summer. Before Kanye and crew could exit the venue, Jay called ‘Ye back for the most rambunctious rendition of “Niggas In Paris”.
Word must have spread fast about Saturday’s performances because Day Two saw itself a little more jam packed than the previous night. Rita Ora kicked the day off with her brand of Pop&B. Her singles “How We Do” and “R.I.P.” had the people hyped.
Next, Santigold did her dubstep material and didn’t disappoint. She even invited audience members onstage. Odd Future hit the smaller stage across the park and their fans went absolutely crazy when they started their performance. Tyler, The Creator seemed to feed off the crowd.
The reunion of Run-DMC was one of the highlights of the second day. Darryl Mac and Rev. Run performed together for the first time since group member Jam Master Jay was murdered in 2002. Jay’s eldest son Jam Master J’son took on DJ duties for the performance.
Jill Scott and Drake both rocked the main stage a few hours apart and everyone couldn’t contain themselves during their respective shows.
The headliners for Made in America’s closing night were the legendary rock band Pearl Jam. While their songs were unfamiliar to many, those who did know know the group had a ball. Jay even came back out to perform “99 Problems” with the legendary band backing him.
All in all, Jay-Z and Budweiser executed an excellent show. The fact a rapper could shut down the middle of a city is the definition of boss. Director Ron Howard captured the entire event for a film to be released next year.
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