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Made in America: Day 1

September 12, 2018

Text by Melissa Simpson. Images by Rick Kauffman.

As I enter the Parkway and look around at the sea of twenty-somethings clad in red, white and blue, flanked by two towering amusement rides, I have to find my bearings. Made in America 2018 is a concert, but it is also a spectacle.

The fresh-faced Jessie Reyez, a songstress hailing from Toronto, Ontario, sets the tone for the day with her brash and unapologetic performance. Between songs like “Figures” and “Apple Juice,” Reyez makes time to address the #Metoo movement and even asks the crowd if they have ever had to dodge negativity, phone calls, text messages and “dick.” Before leaving the Rocky Stage, the squeaky-voiced Canadian plays a few snippets from “Nice Guy” and “Good Guy” – two songs that she is featured on from Eminem’s surprise album Kamikaze that was released the day prior.


Shortly after the Reyez’s performance, Sabrina Claudio appears on the Liberty Stage. Backed by a four-piece band, the Cuban and Puerto Rican woman, clad in a burnt-orange halter top, performs fan favorites such as “Confidently Lost” and “Stand Still.” Claudio moves across the stage, body rolling and belly dancing with a soft and sensual ease that pairs perfectly with her laid back style of R&B.

Up next is 6ix9ine, or is he? He’s slated to perform on the Rocky Stage at 4:15 but is nowhere to be found. Instead of the controversial New York rapper, the eager crowd is met with a performance from the Atlanta-based rapper Trouble. The crowd, who was expecting a rowdy performance from 6ix9ine, take a while to warm up to Trouble’s southern sensibilities. Eventually songs like “Come Thru” have the audience jumping and waving to the gritty trap music.

Back at the Liberty Stage, another Atlanter rapper by the name of 6lack, takes to the stage. His mild manner while performing matches his style of singing/rapping blase’- think Drake but more singing and more chill vibes.

The MIA phone app then confirms that 6ix9ine will be performing at the Rocky Stage at 5:45. Once this is realized by the masses, a stampede of young people runs full speed to the stage. 6ix9ine performs songs from his 2018 release, Graduation Day, while running across the stage in a cloud of rainbow hair—sometimes while standing on audience members, other times while wearing only a pair of grey boxer briefs and countless “69” tattoos.

Right after 6ix9ine exits the Rocky Stage, the Terror Squad figurehead, Fat Joe, takes to the stage. He performs hits from both the aughts and from this decade, including “All the Way Up,” “What’s Love” and “Lean Back.” The crowd excitedly sings along to all of his timeless throwback.

Next up was Janelle Monae on the Liberty stage, and her set pulls heavily from this year’s Dirty Computer, and 2013’s Electric Lady.”  In previous years, Monae was known for wearing black and white suits as a nod to her working class roots. For MIA Day 1, Monae mixes things up with outfits ranging from red and white pleather jackets to sequin pants to an exaggerated military epaulette. Her hour-long set is full of women’s empowerment messages with songs like “Pynk” and “Django Jane.”

Almost immediately after Monae’s stage goes dark following a James Brown-inspired playfully vanglorious closing, floodlights and bass, coming from the Rocky Stage, fill the Parkway. Philadelphia’s prodigal son has returned: MIA is Meek Mill’s first performance in his hometown since being released from prison in April of this year. His performance, which was the highlight of day one, begins with the self-aggrandizing “Millidelphia.” This new anthem is followed by his 2012 release “House Party.” Despite the song being six-years old, the crowd does not miss a beat when rapping back the lyrics.

Throughout his performance, Mill makes sure to highlight the people who stood with him through his recent incarceration and release including Jay Z, Rock Nation COO Desiree Perez and the Philadelphia 76’ers co-owner Michael Rubin. The Philly rapper goes on to say that he is “dedicated to prison reform.”

Of course, a homecoming would not be complete without Mill showing some love to other Philly acts – rising talent Tierra Whack and PnB Rock were invited to the stage to perform short sets.

Mill also takes a portion of his set to honor recently departed loved ones and celebrities. This homage includes Aretha Franklin, Trayvon Martin, Mike Grant and XXXTentacion.

He caps off his performance with the unofficial Philadelphia Anthem “Dreams and Nightmares.” When Mill asks his DJ, DJ Bran, to pause the song, the entire crowd continues to recite the song. Once the song is replayed, his Philly fans rap along until Mill exited the stage.

Next up on the Liberty Stage is German-Russian EDM DJ Zedd. His performance is full of lasers, smoke and pyrotechnics. Zedd’s pulsing synths pair with the extravagant stage effects made the audience feel as if they had been transported to a beach in Ibiza.

The last person to take the stage for the night is 23-year-old Syracuse, NY native rapper Post Malone. Shrouded in a yellow light, Malone performs fan favorites including “White Iverson,” “Rockstar,” and “Hallelujah.” Although Malone has the entire Parkway rapping along to his song, the chill vibe of his music is an excellent wind down to a day full of excitement and energy.  

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