In a long weekend replete with outdoor music shows, the who’s who of hip-hop descended upon Philadelphia for the first annual Budweiser Made In America festival. The multi-stage concert at the Ben Franklin Parkway was colloquially known as simply the “Jay-Z show”– despite a slew of buzzy, multi-genre appearances ranging from Drake, D’Angelo, Run DMC and Jill Scott to Pearl Jam, Skrillex and Miike Snow — and with good reason; the rapper’s presence, along with wife Beyoncé, was palpable throughout the two-day undertaking and gave what could otherwise have been a piecemeal line-up cohesiveness.
The casually gorgeous duo, in their Brooklyn Nets panoply, made the festival rounds, catching several artists’ sets as genuine fans while still upholding their celebrity; politely smiling as cell phone cameras flashed and social media paparazzi futilely tried to snap and share photos in the venue’s dead reception zone.
Jay-Z proved to be the center of gravity on both nights, though he only technically headlined the first (Pearl Jam closed out the second night). Jay began his set with the heartfelt, titular track “Made In America” and then jumped into a lengthy medley of staples including “Big Pimpin’” and “Jigga What, Jigga Who” as well as a walk down Roc-A-Fella Records nostalgia lane with former State Property comrade and hometown boy Freeway and Memphis Bleek for “What We Do” and “Murda Murda.” Hov’s backing band gave the set a few fresh deviations by interspersing some interesting funked-out variations to his requisite fare, including “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” performed over The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” beat.
Following the infectious “Public Service Announcement,” fans received a real public service announcement from none other than President Barack Obama who, in a pre-taped message, urged young people to register to vote in the 2012 election. Obama applauded Jay-Z for his accomplishments and added that the rapper is a mainstay in the POTUS’ iPod. Jay always has a way of coolly reminding you that his friends are way cooler than yours, doesn’t he?