Made In America represents a lot of things. To some, it’s the unofficial end to summer, the last time to break out that patriotic outfit before it goes into storage. To others, it represents the finest of Philly, bringing together a collection of eclectic food trucks, causes, and music fans that would never otherwise meet. All in all, it can be viewed as a melting pot of hip–hop and electronic heavyweights—the kind of place where DJs and MCs battle for the biggest crowds.
This year’s festival was no exception. Chock full of moments designed to be retweeted and Tik–Tok'd, Made In America 2019 coated the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in excitement, wonder, and confetti. While there’s no way to recreate Travis Scott’s otherworldly set or recapture James Blake’s ambient take on dubstep, perhaps this list of highlights can be a close second.
Merging an accidental background in EDM with a natural sensibility for smooth hip–hop, Channel Tres transformed an afternoon set on the Freedom Stage into a house party. Replete with the energy of "last call", the emerging artist set the crowd into a causal groove with songs like “Sexy Black Timberlake” and “Black Moses.” Channel Tres was dancing right along with the audience, too, going step for step with his backup dancers in a high energy finale that was hard to forget.
Forged in the shadows of acts like Meek Mill and Lil Uzi Vert, Kur is yet another in a line of Philadelphia rappers whose love for the city, however complex, pours from each verse. Jumping between songs like “Come Back” and “Crack" that paint a classic yet potent underdog narrative, the local rapper added an air of reverence to an explosive set. Kur closed with a bang, too, bringing Bryant, a longtime fan, onstage with him to rap the lyrics to the final song.
Dressed in an outfit reminiscent of early summer with yellow flowers set against a frilly pink silhouette, Jorja Smith’s set felt like a much–needed breeze amid a day filled with heavy–hitting acts. Commanding the secondary Liberty Stage with the easygoing grace of an old–timey jazz singer, R&B’s newest darling had the crowd mesmerized, especially as she gave a rendition of “Get It Together” sans Drake that was so hot it could’ve melted the pavement.
While some dubbed pop wunderkind Dominic Fike “an industry plant,” he’s much closer to a hybrid of Post Malone and Julian Casablancas. Bouncing around on the coveted Rocky Stage with the energy of someone on the precipice of everything—boundless stardom, an album, a breakthrough—Fike felt like a supernova. He captivated the crowd, a mix of cool teenagers and industry types, with the hit “3 Nights” and the soon–to–be hit “Phone Numbers,” both of which have the same energy of the last week of senior year—all nostalgic and light.
Just because the Electric Zoo Music Festival was busy turning New York’s Randall’s Island into a veritable rave doesn’t mean Made in America was short on high–energy sets. EDM powerhouse and Harvard grad Tim Wu, aka Elephante, set the Freedom stage afire on Saturday with a set that fluttered between remixes of party staples and originals that have the frenzied energy of a coming–of–age movie.
Arguably the star of XXL’s Freshman Class cypher, DaBaby brought his charisma and boyish charm to the TIDAL Stage on Sunday. Bolstered by a bevy of special guests, the Charlotte–born rapper’s performance verged on a festival within a festival. Highlights include Megan Thee Stallion reappearing for their summer anthem “Cash Shit” and Lizzo, fresh off her own performance, surprising the crowd with a powerhouse performance of what may be the greatest song of 2019, “Truth Hurts.”
Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals
While, admittedly, a rare Beyonce sighting may have stolen the spotlight away from Anderson .Paak and his band, the Free Nationals, on Saturday evening, his set was still a masterclass in performance. At home behind his drum kit, .Paak led the crowd into an easy groove that swelled as his backing band let loose.
Megan Thee Stallion
Megan Thee Stallion runs on “hot girl time.” Despite being over an hour late to own her set, the Houston native and newly minted cultural icon still managed to pull attention from the other acts on Sunday. Decked out in an all–red outfit reminiscent of Sin City, Meg radiated braggadocious vibes and unprecedented swagger. Bangers like “Freak Nasty” and “Hot Girl Summer” played well with the crowd, and her freestyle was full of WorldStar moments.
Not to hyperbolize, but Lizzo invented showmanship. Encasing the Liberty stage crowd in a bubble of positivity, candor, and exuberance for nearly an hour, the fledgling icon left no room for wandering attention. Opening with the show–stopping titular track of her album, “Cuz I Love You,” Lizzo broke the fourth wall with startling tenacity and clarity. Deeming everyone in the audience an honorary and beautiful big girl, the singer turned her self–love ethos into something more than a message. It became action, emboldening the crowd to be better and brighter as she launched into favorites like “Tempo” and “Juice.”
Astroworld, as ubiquitous and overplayed as it may be, is something truly from another planet. Juxtaposed with a background of some of Philly’s oldest architecture, Scott took the Sunday night crowd on a journey through his older discography that ended with everyone “to the moon,” as his transcendent hit “SICKO MODE” says. With each song punctuated by a loud gunshot noise, the Houston rapper repeatedly announced his presence as larger than life. The latter half of the show stunned, with old favorites like “Antidote” and “Goosebumps” blending with newer bangers like “Yosemite” excellently.
Made In America 2019 offered a little bit of everything. Whether you spent the day dancing your heart out to house music or rapping along to every lyric, Philly’s biggest music festival celebrated exactly what makes the city so special—its diversity of sound. Despite a bill packed with few artists from the city itself, the festival offered an experience reflective of Philly's vibrant hip–hop scene and burgeoning EDM culture. Until next year!