It’s hard to believe, but it was only one year ago that Philadelphians braced themselves for the unknown, when thousands would descend upon our city to see what Jay Z had brewed up with Budweiser. That successful two-day effort, Made In America, seemed to be a pretty time-hooked moment: Jay and Kanye West were creative partners at the time, still relishing in the critical success of Watch The Throne. And while Yeezy’s G.O.O.D. Music crew stormed the Rocky Stage for the last half-hour of Saturday night to blast through megahits (at the time) like “Clique,” “New God Flow” and “Mercy,” it seemed like no one could touch these hip-hop royals—like they were at the top of their game, and no one else was on their level. The royalty in reference, other than Messrs. Carter and West, would be the performers from last year’s MIA who graced the main stage: Rick Ross, Drake and the boys who jumped on stage with West, like 2 Chainz, Pusha T, Common and Big Sean. Odd Future graced the secondary Liberty Stage, but those OFWGKTW boys are a little more nihilistic and subversive than what I’m getting at.
But that was 2012. At 2013’s MIA, it’s really only about one emcee: Kendrick Lamar.
Indeed, Lamar blew up big over the last year, and mere weeks ago, he stepped onto a Big Sean track called “Control” that shook the hip-hop community up like it hasn’t been in a while. On it, Lamar spits: “I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you n——s/Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you n——s/They don’t want to hear not one more noun or verb from you n——s.” This after shouting out a roll call of his contemporaries, in order: J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Wale, Pusha T, Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Big Sean, Jay Electronica, Tyler (the Creator) and Mac Miller. Lamar also posits himself alongside Nas, Jay, Eminem and Andre 3000—as in they’re old, he’s new. It’s all anyone can talk about, Tweet and Facebook about. Well, before Miley.
This year’s lineup for MIA is decidedly hip-hop and young. With Beyonce headlining Day One and Nine Inch Nails headlining Day Two, you might believe that the festival was proportionately mixed in genre. Not really. Phoenix, Queens of the Stone Age, Imagine Dragons and the Gaslight Anthem are doing the heavy rock and pop rock lifting, with Emeli Sande, Miguel, Solange, Fitz & the Tantrums, HAIM and AlunaGeorge bolstering both days with modern R&B and soul. And yet, with one verse, all anyone cares about this weekend is catching Lamar’s Sunday set.
To our knowledge, none of the artists he noted by name are expected to be present, minus A$AP Rocky, who we’ll be sure to catch just to see if he addresses the call-out directly, hopefully in a hot verse of his own. Honestly, it’s just hip-hop—and admit it or not, hip-hop’s been pretty boring for a while. Diss tracks and petty beefs come with the territory and have since it began. Just ask Chuck D and Public Enemy, who’ll be performing on Saturday. Competition in hip-hop is as present as cheap gold, and Lamar will be strangely in his element all weekend, with all of his Black Hippie homeboys present and performing: Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and ScHoolBoy Q each go on earlier in the day on Sunday.
Otherwise, things appear to be pretty much exactly as they were in 2012. A map shows all the stages to be in the same places, with the exception of the Freedom Tent being turned into a Freedom Stage to showcase electronic dance music. EDM’s a strong component to the MIA lineup, for whatever reason, and, like the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Dan DeLuca told Daniel Rubin in a radio chat on The Talk: “If all EDM sounds like a car alarm going off to you, I would say you should bring earplugs and walk several blocks away in search of a fish taco during Deadmau5 or Wolfgang Gartner or Nero.” There’s also a brand new skate park smack dab in the middle of the fest’s campus, so there will now be a Skate Park Stage, with programming on it both days that’s in addition to the 30-plus acts slated for the main stages.
MIA has also ramped up its capacities by a not-insignificant number: 60,000 tickets can and will be sold for both days, as opposed to capacities capped at 50,000 in 2012. Warnings have been issued about what you can (one sealed water bottle) and cannot bring (everything) into the gates, and patdowns will be more substantial this year. The fuss that neighbors made leading up to last summer’s debut was significantly less this time around. There are always drunks and garbage on the streets, and businesses now know what to expect at midnight so have staffed and expanded their hours accordingly.
Speaking of hours, the music starts at 2 p.m., with gates opening at noon, and stops at 11:59 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday nights. There’ll be innumerable ways for you to spend money and get money to spend, and, hopefully, the two biggest kinks in terms of pure conveniences will have gotten ironed out: The beer will be cold, and your phone will work. Last year, on Saturday, nothing worked electronically: no cell phone service or WiFi all day, so no calling, texting, Tweeting, Instagramming and no journalists blogging—which may sound funny a year later, but sure as hell won’t be if there’s a repeat. Still, at the same time journalists like me are excited to blog and live-Tweet our wry observations and Instagram the shit out of the crowd antics and performances at Made in America, we’re also excited about the deliciously dank lineup of talent Jay’s put together. Oh, yeah: Beyonce included.
Sat., Aug. 31-Sun., Sept. 1. 2pm. $89.50-$499.50. Benjamin Franklin Parkway. madeinamericafest.com