Jay-Z’s Made in America festival returned for the seventh time to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia on September 1-2. The wildly popular show, which sold 50,000 tickets in 2015, featured a lineup of both established artists and local up-and-coming acts. Headliners included Post Malone, Meek Mill, Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj and Diplo.
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The festival’s success did not come without complication. Earlier this summer, Made in America became a topic of controversy when Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced that as of 2019, the concert would no longer be held on the parkway. This decision was an effort to combat the frustration of local residents over excessive noise, massive crowds, street blockage, economic difficulties and overflowing waste.
Mayor Kenney’s statement prompted a incisive response from festival curator Jay-Z. In an open letter opinion piece written for “The Inquirer” and “Daily News” countering claims of financial burden caused by the event, he wrote “Since 2012, Made in America, one of the only minority-owned festivals, had a positive $102.8 million economic impact to Philadelphia and the festival paid $3.4 million in rent to the city. Made in America employs more than 1,000 Philadelphians each day and 85 percent of our partners are Philadelphia-based companies.”
Jay-Z went on to discuss his festival’s charitable benefits, stating that over the course of its existence, the Made in America festival has donated $2.9 million to the United Way of Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey and partnered with more than 56 charities and organizations representing various causes.
In July, Kenney reversed his decision, saying that this would not be the last time the Parkway would host the festival. Soon after, he posted a picture beside Jay-Z, captioned “Really enjoyed seeing Jay-Z tonight. We’re both very excited about the future of @MIAFestival here in Philly.”
Sponsored primarily by Abercrombie and Fitch, this year’s festival attracted hordes of eager concert-goers. With A-list live music, gourmet food trucks and Labor Day weekend excitement, the atmosphere was high-energy and good-spirited. Three of the most notable sets of the weekend were:
As one of the final and most memorable acts of the weekend, Nicki Minaj’s set on Sunday evening rocked the stage with a fierce performance featuring guests Lil Uzi Vert, Tekashi 6ix9ine and A$AP Ferg. An unintentionally attention-grabbing aspect of her performance was a continuous wardrobe malfunction, which she addressed onstage, joking "They done saw my nipples at least 50 times tonight."
Photo courtesy of Tidal Livestream
A local legend, rapper Meek Mill put on an unforgettable show in celebration of his first hometown performance since his release from jail, referring to his set as his “release party.” Between lively performances of his greatest hits, such as “Ima Boss”, Mill spoke passionately on a variety of topics, ranging from his recent imprisonment to his path from the streets of “the other side of Philadelphia - the dirty part” to stardom. Mill paid tribute to young people whose lives were lost in senseless street violence and commented on the need for prison reform, asking the crowd “who have a family member in jail for dumb shit?” He invited two guest artists to join him onstage - female rapper Tierra Whack and singer PnB Rock. Meek Mill closed the show with a fiery performance of “Dreams and Nightmares” that riled up a crowd of already-excited fans. Photo courtesy of Arik McArthur/FilmMagic
On the first day of Made in America, Janelle Monae put on one of the most inspired, purposeful performances of the weekend. Entering the stage to the titular song of her third studio album, “Dirty Computer, ” Monae’s songs addressed communities that are “pushed to the margins of society because of where they come from.” Her visually stunning performance discussed relevant topics in the LGBT+, black, Latinx, feminist and immigrant communities. Monae’s vocal talent in addition to her awareness and activism made her performance one to remember.
Photo courtesy of CelebMafia
This year’s Made in America festival was a smashing success, paving the way for a new Labor Day weekend tradition that will now last for years to come.