It's hard to live up to the original and in many ways the second annual Budweiser Made In America festival paled in comparison to last year's epic edition.
Not that the overflow crowds, once again equipped with gargantuan cans of Bud, had nothing to complain about. The acts were high energy and exhilarating during two intensely muggy days on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Beyonce proved why she deserves to be called The Queen, while Kendrick Lamar showed why he is the self-proclaimed King of Rap.
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Still, there was something decidedly missing from this year's festival. There were no unannounced guests, aside from a brief cameo from Amber Rose during husband Wiz Khalifa's set. The crowd was begging for Jay Z to pop up on several occasions, especially when Beyonce belted out "Crazy In Love." Alas, it never happened.
And, despite 2Chainz, A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar all being in town, there was no combining of rap forces. Each artist rhymed his own verse on "F--kin' Problems" in separate, individual performances. That was a far cry from last year when 2 Chainz, Big Sean and Pusha T graced Kanye West's surprise set, while Drake brought out 2 Chainz for "No Lie" and French Montana for "Pop That."
Unfortunately, there were no surprises in 2013. The closest any artist got was Saturday when Public Enemy introduced famed Philly emcee Schoolly D. That being said, Made In America was an overwhelming success in Year Two.
The crowds — mostly teens and 20-somethings dressed in muscle shirts and tank tops — were calm and peaceful as a constant aroma of marijuana enveloped the Parkway. There were no major incidents or arrests on site.
Now the question is: Who will headline in 2014? This reporter is suggesting Eminem. Make it happen, Jay Z. Until then, let's take a look back at Made In America 2013.
Public Enemy Can Still Throw A Party
It was hard to imagine many in the assembled masses — an estimated 55,000 on Day 1 — grew up listening to Public Enemy. They were just too young. The most excited person in the crowd might have been the beer vendor who sold me an $11 Budweiser. She was freaking out as the crew hit the stage, saying," Flavor Flav, I love you!"
Flavor Flav didn't disappoint. First, he told everyone that if you want to follow him on Twitter (and you should) remember to spell his name correctly. His Twitter handle is @FlavorFlav — Flavor is not spelled Flava, he reminded everyone. Flavor Flav blasted racism and dedicated a song to Trayvon Martin, all while wearing his trademark clock and shouting "Yeah Boyee."
"Two things I'm against ... I'm against racism and separatism," Flavor Flav said. "If you're with me and you understand me, put a middle finger in the air and say, "F--k racism. F--k separatism."
Public Enemy poured through their entire catalog of hits, including "Welcome To The Terrordome," Fight The Power," and "Shut 'Em Down." At one point, Flavor Flav pulled out and strummed a bass.
However, it was the political message that took center stage. Chuck D stopped often to criticize Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's handling of the Philly's public education system. Chuck D called Corbett out by name and vowed to donate $10,000 to the Philadelphia public school system.
Beyonce Is The One True Queen
As much as the crowd wanted Jay Z to appear alongside his wife, she didn't need him. Beyonce put every female vocalist on notice — sorry Rihanna, sorry Nicki Minaj — and showed why she is the undisputed Queen, just in case anyone forgot. Beyonce played for a full 90 minutes and made countless wardrobe changes seemingly on the fly.
"Welcome to the Mrs. Carter Show," the Grammy winner shouted.
The singer didn't present any new material, but she didn't leave the crowd wanting for anything on hits like "Single Ladies," "Crazy In Love," "If I Were A Boy," and "Halo." Beyonce crumpled to the stage floor during "1+1" and slung her microphone off to the side. She sang the entire number on the ground as her deep, raspy vocals danced in the imaginations of both the male and females huddled around the stage.
Perhaps the highlight of the performance came when she covered Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." Gold confetti rained down on the crowd as Beyonce flashed that controversial triangle sign right before exiting the stage for good, just like at the Super Bowl.
Is Beyonce a member of the New World Order, also known as the Illuminati? If she is, she wasn't saying.
Turn Up With 2Chainz
The man born Tauheed Epps might have stolen the show from everyone on Day 1. It was hard to find a patch of grass to stand on in front of the Liberty Stage as people were packed in like sardines, literally elbow-to-elbow, for the entire 45-minute set. Fact is, no one seemed to mind as 2Chainz delighted onlookers on tracks like "No Lie," "Riot," "I'm Different," and "Feds Is Watching."
He stayed true to character, too, constantly reminding everyone why he might be the best in the hip-hop game, in a charmingly cocky way. Right before getting into "RIP," 2Chainz told the crowd he wanted to get serious for a minute. The smile left his face and the music stopped for a second.
"I need a moment of silence," 2Chainz said, his voice trailing off. "For this mother f--kin' stage because I just killed it."
The Atlanta-based rapper debuted a new single called "Netflix" from his upcoming album, "B.O.A.T.S 11: Me Time," which is due out Sept. 10. He reminded the crowd to pick up his sophomore album — and since it's being released two days before his actual birthday (Sept. 12), he put the crowd right back into a frenzy by transitioning into "Birthday Song" after the not-so-shameless plug.
2Chainz arguably had the most energized set of the entire festival. One suggestion for organizers: If he gets invited back next year, put him on the main stage.
You Can't Kill Kendrick Lamar's Vibe
If 2Chainz didn't have the most frenzied crowd, then that honor goes to Kendrick Lamar. Revelers started making their way over to the Rocky Stage 40 minutes before the Los Angeles rapper was scheduled to appear. His DJ warmed up the crowd, then the Black Hippy crew — rappers Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q and Lamar — trotted out one by one. Banners for the festival made it seem like the group would be performing as a whole, but that wasn't the case. This was a coronation for the self-proclaimed King of Rap.
Jay Rock did a solo number, then gave way to Ab-Soul for two tracks. Schoolboy Q, who just released his first album, "Oxymoron," came out third and played the longest of the trio. Schoolboy sped — his words — through hits "Hands On The Wheel," Yay Yay" and "Collard Greens" (weirdly, without the help of Lamar, who is featured prominently on the track) before introducing the headliner.
"Alright, here he is ... Kendrick Lamar," Schoolboy yelled as he exited rather abruptly.
Some speculated that there might be some animosity in Black Hippy, from the lesser-known acts over Lamar's meteoric rise to superstardom. If there was, they kept it under wraps. As Schoolboy Q ended his brief set, the crowd started chanting, "Kendrick, Kendrick, Kendrick ..."
Lamar, appearing in vintage jeans and a white T-shirt, didn't waste any time pumping up the crowd with the first part of "mAAd City" before jumping right into "Backseat Freestyle." Lamar might only measure 5-foot-6 in height, but he commanded the stage like a giant.
He beckoned the crowd to get louder and louder, while pitting the left side against the right side. Lamar, who has been on tour for nearly four straight months, said he was having a contest to see which city could be the loudest.
He warned that if the right side wasn't as loud as the left side, then that might ruin his performance and kill the show's vibe. Then, the roof nearly blew off the nearby Art Museum as he went into "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe." Lamar had one more trick up his sleeve as he closed with the second part of "mAAd City." He stopped mid-song and coaxed the sweaty masses to "turn up."
"We're at about a 9 right now," he said. "I'm going for a 15."
The crowd ate it up — or to steal a Kendrick Lamar verse, they could feel his energy from two planets away.
The Nine Inch Nail In The Coffin
The Day 2 headliners closed out the second annual festival in style. It was quite the contrast from the crowds that had turned up just hours earlier to witness Kendrick Lamar and Wiz Khalifa, but the rockers captivated with a 90-minute shot of adrenaline — well, melancholy adrenaline. Lead singer Trent Reznor came out dressed in all black as blue and purple lights eerily flashed in the background.
Nine Inch Nails started with stuff from the group's new album, "Hesitation Marks," then rewarded those that had stuck out the 9-hour day with classics like "Closer," "Wish," and "Head Like A Hole." They ended the set — and stabbed the two-day festival right in the heart — with a haunting rendition of "Hurt."
As great as the Johnny Cash cover is, the original — accented by Reznor's ghostly, plodding vocals — is its own national treasure. Reznor rarely spoke, but he did make sure to send out one special shout out.
"Glad you can be here and we thank Jay Z for the invite," he said.
Made In America Hits And Misses
1. A$AP Rocky: One of the freshest faces in rap wasn't at his best. He showed up 20 minutes late, played six songs and left. Rocky was the first act scheduled, in essence, the opener for the two-day concert. It was a tad disappointing considering how good he was opening on Rihanna's "Diamonds World Tour."
2. Ranting and raving: While it was cool to see electronic dance musicians like Calvin Harris, Robert DeLong, Deadmau5 get their due on actual outdoor stages, it lacked the "ultimate rave-party feeling" that last year's DJ tent provided. Yes, a dance party erupted in the streets and fields near the stage ... but there was no floor shaking (almost collapsing) underneath you.
3. Paging Drake. Where was Drake? His name was on the original MIA lineup released in April. Suddenly, he was nowhere to be found. The surf rock band "Wavves" was a last-minute addition.
1. Hooray for Solange: It must be tough being Beyonce's sister, but Solange owned it. Her soulful, jazzy sound — and look, complete with retro dress and afro — was a pleasant surprise. She wowed on the Liberty Stage Sunday and at the Skype after-party Saturday night at the TLA on South Street. Add her to your playlist.
2. Showing Phillies love. Macklemore did his homework. He showed up sporting a John Kruk Phillies throwback jersey and shouted out his love for the Philly cheesesteak during a performance on the Liberty Stage.
3. Hello there. There was a real lack of star power — other than the musicians themselves — at MIA 2. Seeing the beautiful Amber Rose was a nice distraction. She strutted around the Rocky Stage and kissed her husband, Wiz Khalifa. Somewhere Kanye West punched a wall.
Seen And Overheard At MIA
» Cans of 24 oz. Budweisers were selling for $11. Can't we work out some kind of discount? They are already getting all kinds of free advertising. The Parkway resembled a red, white and blue cobblestone path of empty Bud cans.
» Females idolize Beyonce. Tears were being shed by grown women and teenagers alike as she lit up the stage Saturday night. Oh, and it's OK for guys to wear Queen Bey T-shirts.
» Remind us again why marijuana is illegal? The drug was everywhere you looked at MIA and there didn't seem to be any problems or incidents resulting from its use. Just saying.
» Public Enemy made quite the statement by announcing their support for Muma Abu-Jamal and their disdain for Gov. Tom Corbett. Afterward, Mayor Michael Nutter tweeted out a response:
Comts or sgns made by artists @ MIA are NOT condoned authorized or supported by City of Phila. We regret any offense taken in this situation
— Michael A. Nutter (@Michael_Nutter) September 1, 2013
» Someone get Miley Cyrus on the horn. There was definitely some twerking over the two-day festival, but not nearly enough — depending on which side of the twerking debate you hang your booty shorts. Here's an idea: Let's invite Miley next year!