By Shaheem Reid
We learned a few things by attending Jay Z's annual Roc Nation mega fest: Lil Wayne is actually Undefeated, Rhianna is indeed a "savage," and Jay Electronica doesn't like to feel lonely on the stage.
For the fifth straight year the Budweiser-sponsored Made In America took over Philly's Ben Franklin Parkway with another eclectic clash of champions. On Saturday (day one of two consecutive days) singers, bands, DJs, producers, and MCs from just starting to buzz ("I heard of them" status), to bubbling ("I listened to them on the way here" status), to the stars that fans live and die for blessed five different stages throughout the park including the big dawg-reserved Rocky Stage. Named after Sylvester Stallone's beloved pugilist movie role, the Rocky Stage has been home to acts such as Jay Z, Beyonce, D'Angelo, and Kanye West through the years. This years's mix included Philly's own Lil Uzi Vert, rap singer Bryson Tiller, DJ Mustard, Nas signee Dave East, Gallant, Fat White Family, Grits & Biscuits, ASAP Ferg, SZA, Justine Skye, Sleepy Tom, and a late addition to the proceedings, Jay Electronica.
Electronica, one of hip-hop's most unpredictable MCs, felt the Liberty Stage he was performing on was placed too far from the crowd. The way the camera rigs were set up (the event was broadcast live exclusively on Tidal), had the fans standing back a little farther than normal. Just minutes into his set, the Louisiana wordsmith literally walked into the crowd to perform. "Turn my mic up," he commanded to the sound engineers. "Y'all don't turn my mic up I'm gonna make Ta Ta shoot somebody."
"I didn't see Puff last night in Detroit," he continued referencing the heralded Bad Boy Reunion tour that's currently hitting arenas across the U.S., "but fuck it, 'Shiny Suit Theory.'" Of course on that record he rhymes about a conversation between himself and Puff Daddy where the mogul tells Electronica to pursue winning Grammys.
Electronica walked deeper in the crowd and after testifying that the late, great Jay Dilla changed his life, he went into "The Announcement." Then he made his own announcement: "Collapse the stage." He invited all the fans watching to get on the stage with him and "tear this bitch down."
He didn't have to tell them twice. Dozens of fans rushed the stage and got on. The image looked as if Electronica were backed by 10 Wu-Tang Clans. Not much music came after that. You guessed it, Jay's set was cut short by the fear someone would get hurt. Electronica hung around and took pictures with fans after everyone exited.
Rob Hansen // REVOLT
Early on Saturday, some fans and media speculated that perhaps Lil Wayne would be exiting the music game for good when he tweeted about being "defenseless" and "mentally defeated" in the aftermath of police being called to his home about a hoax shooting. But Weezy, a first-time performer of Made In America, touched down in Philly with his good friend 2 Chainz (Chainz has rocked Made In America on multiple occasions) to form the supergroup Collegrove. The duo dropped a self-titled project several months back.
Weezy F Baby didn't look re-tired, he didn't even look regular tired, as he danced and rhymed his nuclear-powered bars to the hyped fans.
After Chainz came on first to warm things up with "I Love Dem Strippers" (he professed that Magic City, ATL's most famous strip club, is the best restaurant in the world), Wayne came out for their classic "Duffle Bag Boy." From there, the duo volleyed back and forth with hits rather than digging deep into their joint album. "A Milli" and "Going In" electrified the night as words flowed past Weezy's diamond-fortified teeth.
The two worked with the tag team precision of Four Horsemen members Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, culminating in their guest verses on Chance The Rapper's "No Problem." Although Chance wasn't present, the two did offer a surprise for ticket buyers by bringing out hometown champion Freeway for "What We Do." "Four outta the five," the always humble Free boasted backstage about how many times he's appeared at the Festival.
Saturday's main attraction was a newbie to Made In America, but she had no problem dominating the spotlight.
Rhianna, with her regalia of thigh-high olive colored boots that connected to her emerald-colored, slightly cheek-revealing bodysuit told the delighted audience, "I wanna know who's saucy?" And after more than five hours of drinking Budweiser and any other liquor they could sneak in, the people cheered loudly back. "Sex with Me" came next and was appropriately followed with "Pour it Up."
Back by a full band, singers, and dancers, RiRi hit harder than One Punch Man with "Bitch Better Have My Money" and a flurry of her popular platinum guest verses from "Run This Town," "Live ya Life," and "All of the Lights." The Grammy winner's polished toes didn't let up on the gas, as she continued to run up the score with "Umbrella" and "Rude Boy."
"My first time at Made in America. Y'all are fucking epic. I never heard this many people sing my sh-t before," she said.
Rihanna wasn't done; things were just turning up. "This is my favorite part of the show. Time to party!" she said. "Take Care," "Where Have You Been," and "You Needed Me," came on in the aftermath. For the latter, she wore shades with a $2 dollar bill rolled up on her glasses.
"I'm not actually made in America," the sexy superstar said after performing "Diamonds." "Y'all told me I can't vote." She then encouraged people to register to vote and "change the future." "Hillary [Clinton] didn't pay me to say that. I promise," she added.
When she got back to the music, she focused on her current LP Anti. And while Rhianna sits atop the food chain as one of the biggest stars in music today, one part of her game that has been underrated are her vocals. She has matured as a singer and perfectly illustrated her strengthened repertoire on "Love On the Brain."
"Can we burn something babe?" she sang soulfully. "And I run for miles just to get a taste / Must be love on the brain that's got me feeling this way / It beats me black and blue but it fucks me so good / And I can't get enough."
"Kiss It Better" was the closer, with the boss diva demanding, "Man, fuck your pride, just take it on back, boy / Take it on back, boy, take it back all night / Mmm, do what you gotta do, keep me up all night."
"Thank you Philly for accepting me," she said, "and making my career right here in America."
Sunday's Made In America bill is highlighted by DJ Khaled, Chance The Rapper, and headliner Coldplay.