Just weeks before Made in America was scheduled to begin here in Philadelphia, the team behind the festival announced a surprise headlining act. And it was a big one: Kendrick Lamar. With an instant credibility boost, Made in America Day Two was sure to be a promising evening of good music and good fun.
Up and coming acts like Mir Fontane, Saweetie and Gunna kicked things off on Sunday afternoon. At 2:30, Rich The Kid of the radio hit “Plug Walk” took over the Rocky Stage, bringing out his friend and frequent collaborator Jay Critch. Ty Dolla $ign drew a huge crowd for his performance on the Liberty Stage, but his set was plagued with sound issues, which left many in the crowd disappointed. To his credit, he has a commanding stage presence and a huge collection of hits. Canadian/Palestinian rapper Belly was up next on the Rocky Stage to perform crowd favorites “Man Listen” and “P.O.P.”
The festival hit its stride about midway through the afternoon, as G.O.O.D Music President and hip-hop veteran, Pusha T arrived on the main stage. His set was heavy on Daytona tracks; he even referred to it at points as the “Daytona Experience.” But considering Daytona has largely been lauded as one of the best hip-hop albums of the year, this was hardly an issue. He also brought out classic G.O.O.D Music tracks like “Runaway,” “New God Flow” and his eternal classic/Clipse track “Grindin’.” Pusha would hit his stride with his Kendrick Lamar assisted song “Nosetalgia,” but he seemed in great spirits throughout his entire set. Pusha is definitely having a great year, and it shows in the way he carries himself in his performances as of late.
Over on the Freedom stage, Made in America attendees were treated to a great roster of EDM talent, with back to back sets from Lophiile, Lost Kings, Anna Lunoe, Jai Wolf and Cashmere Cat.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events—even to the artist herself—it was Alessia Cara who would have the biggest reaction from fans when she performed her Moana song “How Far I’ll Go.” The Oscar-nominated track has received over 185 million views on YouTube.
On the Liberty stage, Miguel performed a sexy set, pausing to say “Fellas, keep your hands to yourself if she didn’t give you permission” before performing his song “How Many Drinks.”
But the moment many were waiting for would finally arrive at 8:00, when Kung Fu Kenny arrived to the infectious opening chords of “DNA.” It’s easy to see why Kendrick Lamar is hailed as the greatest rapper alive, as the Pulitzer Prize winner flew through hit after hit. Older songs like “Swimming Pools” and “m.A.A.d city” were met with as much enthusiasm as DAMN. notables “LOVE.” and “ELEMENT.” The Compton rapper took time out of his set to show love for Philly, bringing out rising talent Bri Steves to perform her song “Jealousy.” Though he performed just one song from his hugely successful Black Panther soundtrack, Lamar made sure to touch on all of the hits, capping things off with “Alright” and ending his set with “HUMBLE.”
But there was no time for rest, as Diplo was up next over on the Liberty Stage providing the energy with a mix of his hits and remixes of other popular tracks. Sporting an Eagles cap, the LA-based DJ made sure to shout out the city that made him, referencing his early success here in Philly almost 10 years ago. Much to the appreciation of his fans, Diplo’s set was extended by nearly a half hour as Nicki Minaj was late to begin.
When she finally took the stage, the crowd was growing anxious. But the Queen immediately put her loyal “Barbz” at ease as she kicked off her hour-long set with her new song off of Queen, “Majesty.” The song choice felt apropos, paired with her lavish set design. An early wardrobe malfunction would attract most of the attention, as Minaj failed to notice her unfortunate nip slip. But, in typical Nick Minaj form, the Queens native took it in stride and later joked about the incident.
A shorter set meant that Ms. Minaj didn’t waste much time, tackling hit after hit with songs like “Feeling Myself,” “Only” and “Truffle Butter.” Minaj had promised her set would feature some special guests, and the first of which was a real treat as A$AP Ferg came out for their collab “Plain Jane (Remix).” He then stuck around to perform his solo track “Work.” Ferg wouldn’t be the last of Minaj’s special appearances as she also brought out Philly talent Lil Uzi Vert to perform “The Way Life Goes” and “XO Tour Llif3.” In an unsurprising turn of events, she also brought out Tekashi 6ix9ine to perform their new track “FEFE.” Their friendship has been shrouded in controversy, so perhaps Minaj could have better utilized that time in her already short set by not bringing out a performer who had had time to showcase their music on that very stage just a day before, but Minaj isn’t one to listen to naysayers. She, of course, performed her now legendary verse from Kanye West’s “Monster” as well as Queen standouts “Good Form,” “Barbie Dreams” and “Chun-Li.” She capped off a highly successful seventh year of Made in America on a high note with her 2010 track “Moment 4 Life.”
Photo Credit: Sharon Alagna