Made In America: The Backstage Diaries, Day One


Jay-Z warned us that he was coming with something different. He wasn’t lying.

Upon arriving in Philly I promptly lost my phone during an emergency bailout on a crazy cab driver. Convinced this was karma for stiffing him on the bill, I was leary about my first real trip to the City of Brotherly Love.

Imagine being miles from home, in a new city, without a phone…At midnight. I mean, what else can you do but party? So I headed to The Walnut Room to catch Young Guru spin. The Delaware native considered this his “second home” party and played everything from old Roc-A-fella classics to a monster reggae set to deep Philly house jams. Epic. Just what I needed to get my mind right for Saturday.

Walking over to the Philly parkway, you couldn’t help but be impressed. A joint venture between Roc Nation, Budweiser and Steve Stoute’s Translation, the grounds were transformed into a fully branded village, complete with everything you think you might need.

There were three stages: The Rocky for the big boys, The Liberty for the mid-level acts and The Park, which felt like it could’ve been plucked directly from SXSW. A really dope addition was the Freedom tent, which housed an amazing rotation of DJs.

Gary Clark Jr. kicked off the day with an impressive set. We watched from a great spot on the grass as people filed in, marveled by the various food trucks, beer stands and vendors. We had our first Hov sighting early as he chilled on the Budweiser über-VIP risers. As OG Juan smoked a cigar and tossed a football around, it felt very much like a large picnic, only Rick Ross and MMG were performing right behind us.

The crowd loved the Maybach Music set, especially Meek Mill, who was happy this was all taking place in his own backyard. Being at home meant the Philly native got to hang around all night with many of his close friends.

The funniest moment of the day happened shortly after the start of Janelle Monáe’s set when Jay-Z decided he needed a better view. Dashing out into the crowd, Hov’s longtime security guard Norm tried to keep up as the top dawg expertly darted through thousands to get to the side of the stage. Oh, the look on everyone’s face as you heard, “Oh my God, that was Jay-Z!”