After owning various stages around the world with riveting live performances for over fifteen years, in 2012, Jay-Z decided to take it a step further and provide a stage for others, founding the Made in America Festival. Instead of hosting the event in his hometown of New York City or Los Angeles, Hov decided to bring the festival to a familiar haunt of his, Philadelphia—the city where he plucked rap talent like Beanie Sigel, Freeway, Young Gunz, and the rest of State Property during his run as co-founder and CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records. Since the first MIA on Sept. 1-2, 2012, Jay-Z and Roc Nation have helped build the annual multi-day event into one of the most anticipated spectacles of the calendar year. Hosting many of the biggest names in Hip-Hop and R&B, Made in America has welcomed bonafide megastars and promising newcomers who’ve returned to the festival as household names in their own right.
This year—after canceling last year’s festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic—Made in America returns for its ninth installment, as the concert looks to pick up where it left off following 2019’s action-packed weekend. This Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 4-5) mark the 10-year anniversary of the music festival, which takes place at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the heart of the City of Brotherly Love. With a loaded lineup headlined by Lil Baby, who will headline Day 1, Justin Beiber, who will close out Day 2, and various other stars, this weekend’s show is sure to account for a few significant moments that will remain in the minds of attendees and those viewing from home for years to come.
In celebration of the festival’s 10th anniversary, VIBE looks back at 10 of the most memorable and impactful moments in Made In America’s history.
1. Jay-Z Connects With G.O.O.D. Music (2012)
Being that it was the inaugural Made in America festival, it was only right that founder Jay-Z headline the occasion in 2012, as the rap icon ran through many of the biggest hits in his catalog during his 90-minute set. Walking onstage to the Watch the Throne cut, “Made in America,” and allowing time for the crowd to take in a personalized message from President Barack Obama, Hov preceded to remind attendees of his status as a hit-maker and prime-time performer, commanding the crowd’s attention with his sheer stage presence and succession of anthems.
As good as The God MC’s set was, it was only bolstered by the special guests he brought onstage, with Freeway, Young Gunz, and Memphis Bleek popping up to conjure memories of The Roc’s heyday. Later in the show, Hov summoned Kanye West and his G.O.O.D. Music family to take over the stage, which they did in grand fashion. Joined by Big Sean, Common, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz, the crew ran through classics like Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like (Remix),” Common’s “The Light,” as well as the posse-cuts “Cold,” “New God Flow” and “Mercy.” Closing out the show with a performance of “Ni**as in Paris” alongside Ye, Shawn Carter channeled Jigga vibes on that historic September evening, which remains among the festival’s most memorable thus far.
2. Kanye West’s Epic Rant (2014)
When 2014’s Made in America went bicoastal by holding a festival in Los Angeles for the first time, Kanye West showed out. Not only by headlining both the Philly and L.A. stops but by speaking with raw unfiltered emotion during both sets. Sure the actual performances of fan favorites from his Yeezus album, Late Registration, and other choice cuts were captivating in their own right, but it was the dialogue between Yeezy and the crowd during key moments that were memorable. From speaking on his interracial marriage to Kim Kardashian to refusing to mask up pre-COVID, Yeezy let his conscience run free and gave the Made in America crowd a piece of his mind, resulting in an epic rant that ranks with the best of them.
3. Kendrick Lamar Shows Crew Love To His TDE Brethren (2014)
Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 debut, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, may have minted him as Hip-Hop’s new golden child and put Top Dawg Entertainment on the radar, but the label had yet to reach its lofty heights in the rap game. When K. Dot was tapped to rock Made in America for its third festival, the Compton native, who was 45-minutes later for his set, parlayed his tardiness into an opportunity to allow his TDE labelmates to rock the crowd while gaining added exposure in the process. Black Hippy groupmates Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, and Schoolboy Q all took turns manning the stage, with Q gaining a raucous reception to his 2013 hit, “Collard Greens” featuring Kendrick himself. From there, Kung Fu Kenny picked up where his crew left off, mesmerizing the audience with selections from his acclaimed debut, including “Swimming Pools (Drank),” “Poetic Justice” and “(Expletive) Don’t Kill My Vibe.” Backed by a six-piece band, Lamar’s set provided a precursor to the vibes he’d deliver on his classic sophomore outing, To Pimp A Butterfly, just short of a year later.
5. Beyoncé Brings Women Empowerment To The Main Stage (2015)
After headlining the second Made in America Festival two years prior, Beyoncé returned to Benjamin Franklin Parkway a day after the singer’s 34th birthday to celebrate with an explosive performance based around the theme that girls do run the world, indeed. Sparking off the show with the gothic version of “Crazy in Love” and its original, Bey, ran through hits through her self-titled album, as well as a medley of ditties from her tenure with Destiny’s Child. However, in addition to Mrs. Carter’s show-stopping set – and eight outfit changes – were interludes of accomplished women asserting their independence that left an impression on all in attendance and those viewing from home. With a number of her songs paired with clips of Ronda Rousey, Eartha Kitt, Maya Angelou, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaking words of encouragement intended for the ladies, Beyoncé made it known that despite being married to one of the culture’s most respected powerbrokers, she remains in charge of her own agency as a woman.
4. Jay Electronica Becomes One With The Crowd (2016)
Mercurial recluse Jay Electronica resurfaced at Made in America at the festival’s fifth installment for a last-minute set that quickly went awry. Tapped to replace Philly native Eve, Jay Elec ran through cuts like “Abracadabra” and “Exhibit A (Transformations),” but reportedly had his thunder stolen when rapper Lil Uzi Vert strolled past the vicinity, prompting Jay to command concert-goers to bumrush the stage, an order which they kindly obliged. When all was said in done, the result was a sea of rap fans onstage, the collapse of said stage, police being called, and Electronica’s performance being ended abruptly.
6. Rihanna Reminds Americans Of Their Voting Rights (2016)
Despite being a national treasure stateside, Barbadian singer Rihanna was unable to partake in the voting process for the 2016 Presidential Election. That didn’t stop the megastar from urging the American public to do their part during her headlining performance at that year’s Made in America festival, which saw her revisiting selections ranging the entirety of her discography to that point in her career. The performance—comprised of four acts and included classics like “Umbrella,” “Live Your Life,” “Needed Me,” “We Found Love,” and “Work”—served as an extension of Rihanna’s Anti World Tour and would be one of her last live shows before going on hiatus, making those who were present at that year’s festival even luckier.
7. JAY-Z Makes The Crowd Serenade Beyoncé For Her Birthday (2017)
On the heels of dropping his 4:44 album, Jay-Z gave his first performance in the U.S. since its release as the headliner of Made in America in 2017. That year, he put his wife, Beyoncé, in the role of spectator while delivering a riveting show. Pulling out highlights from 2001’s Blueprint, 2003’s The Black Album, 2013’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, and elsewhere, Hov was in his zone but made time to show his appreciation for the lady of the hour, Bey, whose birthday was right around the corner.
Commanding the crowd to sing happy birthday to his misses after giving her a special shoutout, the Brooklyn boss continued on with his show, paying tribute to Linkin Park member Chester Bennington, showing homage to comedian and activist Dick Gregory, and holding a moment of silence to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Aside from those heavy moments, Hov’s succession of hits, guest appearances from Meek Mill and Damien Marley, as well Jay’s birthday wishes to Bey, truly took the cake.
8. Meek Mill’s Homecoming (2018)
After his prison release in 2018 and serving time for violation of probation, Meek Mill made his official homecoming with a rollicking set at Made in America, putting the City of Brotherly Love on tilt with his collection of radio and street anthems. “House Party,” “Issues,” “I’m a Boss,” all rang out the speaker at some point during the evening, however, his signature cut, “Dreams And Nightmares” sent the crowd into a frenzy as they showered their hometown hero with a spirited reception. Coming from the bottom himself, Meek also made it his duty to shine the spotlight on rising stars and fellow Philly natives Tierra Whack and PnB Rock, both of whom made the most of their stage time and have since validated that exposure by continuing to put on for the city in their own right.
9. Nicki Minaj Becomes First Female Rapper To Headline Made in America (2018)
2018 marked the first time a female rapper headlined MIA, as Nicki Minaj put forth a masterful performance that proved that a woman could move the Benjamin Franklin Parkway crowd equally, if not better, than her male counterparts. Having released her fourth studio album, Queen, weeks earlier and postponing her joint tour with Future, the festival gave her the stage to perform a number of records from the project for the first time. Shrugging off multiple wardrobe malfunctions, Minaj also pleased the crowd with her signature hits before bringing out A$AP Ferg, Tekashi 6ix9ine, and Lil Uzi Vert to join her to perform their hit collaborations, ending the final day of that year’s closeout performance with a bang.
10. Cardi B Shakes The Stage (2019)
Two years after performing her chart-topping, breakthrough single, “Bodak Yellow” at Made in America, Cardi B—who was still attempting to shed the stigma that her star-fueling appearance on VH1’s Love & Hip-Hop brought her—returned to the festival as arguably its biggest draw. And she didn’t disappoint, prancing around while reciting her popular tracks like “Money,” “Drip,” and “Be Careful,” as well as features like “Please Me,” “Finesse,” and “Backin’ It Up.” Despite her elevated status, Cardi showed she hadn’t sacrificed a bit of her rambunctious personality during the process, climbing up the scaffolding while performing her single, “Press,” much to the delight of the largely pro-Cardi sea of concert-goers.