See Jay-Z, Kanye, Rick Ross' crew, Passion Pit, Gary Clark Jr. and lots more from Made In America's maiden voyage in our slideshow.
The setting was grand: One of the most iconic set of stairs in the world, in one of the most historical cities in the country, showcasing one of the most successful people in the entertainment business. The very same steps that Rocky Balboa scaled on his way to victory would now serve as the platform for the indefatigable Jay-Z. This was no accident. This wasn't a music festival that he happened to be headlining. This was HIS festival. After all, he's not a businessman, he's a business... man.
As he walked down the steps, pausing to bounce up and down like Rocky did, the song "Made In America" played. Shawn Carter's story of rags to riches is an ultimate embodiment of the American Dream, a sentiment that was shared in a video introduction by President Obama to the rapper who is in constant rotation in the prez's iPod: "He learned from his mistakes and refused to quit. He is truly what it means to be 'Made In America'."
A co-sign from the president, Jay? Not bad!
The opening verse of "Public Service Announcement" has been Jay's go-to opener ever since The Black Album was released. "Allow me to reintroduce myself... my name is HOV!" he shouted, striding from one end of the stage to the other, stopping to bask in the praise his fans roared high into the night sky. "Izzo (H.O.V.A)", "Jigga (What's My Name) followed, and then the opening section of his set ended with "Big Pimpin.'"
Frequent collaborator and protegee Memphis Bleek joined the stage for the appropriate "Murda Murda (South Philly Niggaz), and then Freeway joined in for "What We Do." The energy was electric, placing fans seemingly into a trance, rapping even the most obscure verses word for word. "Excuse Me Miss" prompted a two-stepping flash mob a mile long on the parkway, and all in attendance threw their diamonds high in the sky.
"I got a million of these," said the Jiggaman. Maybe not quite a million, but very close. "99 Problems," "Empire State of Mind," "Run This Town" and "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" were all welcomed with dancing, shouting, and applause.
"Bonnie & Clyde" gave us hope that wife/babymomma Beyonce would join him onstage as the rumors had hinted, but she was satisfied with watching the show on the rafters near the side of the stage. Kim Kardashian was in the crowd also, which could only mean...
We were promised good music, and now there was G.O.O.D. Music. Pusha T kicked things off with his remix of Chief Keef's "I Don't Like," a devilish litany of a song expounding everything the rappers do not find particularly pleasant. Kanye and Big Sean dropped in for their verses, all dressed in similar black tees with the G.O.O.D. music logo on the back. Kanye followed with "Can't Tell Me Nothing" and "Theraflu."
The freaks exploded in a booty-dancing rage with "Dance (A$$)," stopping to make the muthafucka hammer time to the Detroit rapper's biggest hit. Chi-Town also represented with Common taking the stage for his classic "The Light," an interesting choice sandwiched between several swag-filled tracks. Their set ended with "Mercy," which included an intense appearance by 2 Chainz.
"Don't go anywhere, Kanye! We ain't done. We have time for one more" said Jay.
That could only mean one song, and one song only.
"Niggas In Paris." In Philly. At Made In America. And they only had to sing it once this time.
Personal Bias: I purchased pre-sale tickets as soon as the festival was announced. My top favorite artists of all time are Jay-Z and Carlos Santana, both of which I've seen almost 20 times combined.
The Crowd: Young, star-spangled, and dehydrated.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I hope you guys like freedom, cuz I've got plenty of it!" -- drunk guy with an American flag on his back.
Random Notebook Dump: Somehow I managed to lose a memory card, which sucks hard. But I celebrated my birthday doing something I love... shooting and writing about music.
See more photos on the next page.
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