Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Made in America & All its Glory

I'm still recovering from the epic weekend that took place. Made in America, in only its second year in effect, was absolutely incredible this year. Created by Jay Z himself, the caliber of the artists during this two day festival was unreal. In patriotic outfits, tens of thousands of people gathered in Philly on Benjamin Franklin Parkway to witness live performances from the Underachievers, Wiz Khalifa, A$AP Rocky, all of Black Hippy, Miguel, Solange, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, 2 Chainz and of course the one and only Beyoncé Carter.

A$AP was the first hip hop performance of the festival and I doubt Jay will be asking this Pretty Mothafucka back. The crowd was so hype to see him and he strolled in twenty five minutes late and finished five minutes early. Although his performance (of barely five songs total) was impeccable and really livened the crowd, it left everyone unfulfilled. Especially considering every other performer was extremely punctual and performed full 45-90 minute sets. A$AP Nast accompanied Rocky, although we all really wanted Ferg to show up.

Emile Sandé, a British recording artist and songwriter, was one of the most charming acts of the festival. Her energy radiated through the crowd as she urged the audience to sing along with her whenever they could. Her smile was contagious and her voice was really beautiful. Following Emile was Public Enemy and days later I am still in awe of that performance. Seeing Chuck D and Flavor Flav was really life changing. Aside from being able to witness classic hip hop at its finest, Chuck D spoke on the atrocities of the Trayvon Martin Trial, he spoke on the lack of funding in the Philadelphia Public Schools and he spoke on the convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. I was blown away by their performance of greatest hits and how they effortlessly interwove their social commentary. They also donated a portion of their profits from the festival to the Philadelphia Public Schools. Much respect to Public Enemy, still fighting the power in 2013.

Directly following Public Enemy was 2 Chainz on the smaller Liberty stage. It was so hard to transition from such an authentic hip hop experience to music that is so shallow in every aspect. 2 Chainz did his thing, he performed his radio hits and some new tracks from his upcoming album. If it's possible, the new songs were even more outrageous and lyrically inferior than ever before. I was so moved by Public Enemy, I couldn't even turn up to club bangers like "Birthday Song" and "Bandz a Make her Dance," it just felt so in genuine and gimmicky.

Queen Bey closed day 1 of the festival and her performance was flawless. Performing a 90 minute set with costume changes, full dance routines, and amazing visual and light production, the crowd of men and women equally screamed and sang along to some of her most popular hits. Her dancers were incredible as was her all female band. The only disappointment of her set was her performing "Crazy in Love" solo. Jay Z had openly walked through the crowd prior to Bey's set, but despite almost everyone throwing up the Roc sign, Jay did not accompany his wife. "1+1" was just beautiful, as her pianist killed the keys. Beyoncé performed the video routines to "Run the World (Girls)" and "Single Ladies." And she closed with her heart melting ballad "Halo."

Day two started off with the Brooklyn duo: the Underachievers. Their debut mixtape, Indigoism, was not only dope, but people really started to respect the upcoming Flatbush natives. Big ups to Jay for selecting such a talented and underground group keeping the Made in America lineup extremely diverse. They performed a lot of tracks from Indigoism which is very remnant of 90s gritty rap with some 60s pshycadelic influences. The group finished off their performance with tracks from their new mixtape Lords of Flatbush. The also two humbly stayed around after their set to take pictures and greet fans.

Solange took the Liberty stage next and gave a vocally stellar performance. I'm not very familiar with her music, but I did enjoy her performance. Black Hippy blazed the main stage and Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q gave incredible and brief performances before headliner Kendrick took the stage. Jay Rock spit fire, Ab-Soul was entrancing with his sick flow, while Q brought the energy to another level with "Hands on the Wheel" and "Collard Greens." Kendrick gave a strong performance. He interacted with the crowd and had a real sense of confidence that I hadn't seen from him before. However, the live band remixed his dope hip hop beats into straight up rock production. For tracks like "Fuckin' Problem," where the beat is iconic and carries much of the song, it exposed how weak Kendrick's verse actually was. I am usually always a fan of live bands, but his band sounded nothing like his album and I couldn't enjoy his performance in full.

Miguel followed Black Hippy and gave a vocally mediocre performance. He was charming and performed his hits, but he did not sound as good live as I hoped he would. Wiz Khalifa gave a great performance and brought out his new wife Amber Rose as he paraded her around the stage and sang to her. Wiz is certainly a solid performer, but I just can't get down with his new material. Am I the only one missing Kush and OJ days?

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis drew a huge crowd around the Liberty stage. I was eager to see Macklemore live because he has been getting so much recognition lately. However, the only hip hop aspect of his performance was when he brought out Schoolboy Q. I always dig an artist who is outspoken and righteous (as Public Enemey so eloquently showcased the day before), but his performance was corny and straight up wack. I'm hoping the hype surrounding Macklemore will subside soon and we can actually give awards to real rappers.

Despite some lame acts, Made in America was breathtaking. With David Blaine performing spur of the moment magic tricks, to Jay Z casually walking through the crowds and the huge range of talented artists, the entire weekend was a hit. Each artist had their own stage time and that is usually my biggest critique of music festivals, that too many major acts conflict each other. But during Made in America there was no waiting, but there was also no competing performances. Be on the lookout for next year's lineup, because if this was only year two, I can't even imagine what's in store for next year.

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