×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cardi B, Lizzo, Jorja Smith and Rosalia Rule Jay-Z’s Made in America Festival

Maybe it’s because of the female-heavy lineup, but the eighth annual Made in America festival — Jay-Z’s star-studded Labor Day weekend party on Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway — was the most drama-free in years. Not only did Cardi B, Lizzo, Jorja Smith, Rosalia and Tierra Whack deliver memorable sets, Philadelphia native Meek Mill had a block named after him, and even the weather was better than usual, with Philly’s usual late-summer humidity replaced by balmy breezes.

And if the crowds were maybe a bit smaller than in past years, that was a bonus for the people who were there, who had more room to roam and got decent views of the headliners.

Travis ScottMade In America Festival, Day 2, Philadelphia, USA - 01 Sep 2019
CREDIT: Michael Candelori/Variety/Shutterstock

Headliners: The King of Chaos vs. Hip-Hop’s Queen
Still riding high (and using the props from) his Astroworld tour, Sunday night headliner Travis Scott spent nearly one hour on stage with his AutoTune cranked to 11, his bass bins rattling on overdrive, and his body language set on aggressive skulking. Utilizing his hazy computer-processed vocals to maximize the lush, spare melodicism of songs like “Stargazing” and “Love Galore,” the set was powerful but repetitive and predictable (nearly every song ended with an explosion or gunshot sound effect). When the Houston rapper’s “Sicko Mode” hit with its ensuing fireworks crescendo, it was more of a relief than an exaltation.

The same could not be said of Cardi B’s Saturday set. She too was fond of gunshot sounds as punctuation, but her swift set was so tight, her comic timing so impeccable, and her rapping so on point that the booms never felt superfluous or bombastic. Then again, the rainbow-swirl catsuit-clad rapper may have had something to prove to the MIA crowd: She’d last performed at the festival two years ago, when “Bodak Yellow” was still a rising singer and she was mostly known as that one-time stripper from “Love & Hip-Hop.” What a long way she’s some: Toward the end of a set loaded with hits ranging from the autobiographical “Get Up 10” to “Bartier Cardi,” she signed off “Backin’ It Up,” with the boast, “I’m the queen of talking’ sh– and backin’ it up.”

LizzoMade In America Festival, Day 2, Philadelphia, USA - 01 Sep 2019
CREDIT: Michael Candelori/Variety/Shutterstock

The Other Queen
A week after her star-making set on the VMAs, there’s little question that Lizzo is one of the breakthrough artists of 2019, so it was a little surprising that she was relegated to the second stage — especially since her soul-shouting set drew far more people than main stage artist Gucci Mane.

Hitting the stage in faux-denim Daisy Dukes and a corseted bustier, Lizzo took immediate command with her powerful baritone riding high atop of the mix on stewing theatrical tracks such as “Cuz I Love You,” the Prince-like “Worship,” and the stammering stormy weather soul of “Exactly How I Feel.”

Like Cardi B, Lizzo was a consummate performer with great comic momentum. When she wasn’t huckle-bucking, twirling, twerking or emphatically tousling her hair, she was pulling faces and sticking out her tongue. Beyond that, however, she was a body-empowerment spokeswoman (calling the “big girls” in the audience “beautiful, fine deserving superstars”). While a dynamic “Truth Hurts” seemed to be the crowd’s favorite, the grand R&B lullaby of “Jerome” found Lizzo using a faux-cry while finding the roughest edges of her clarion clear voice.

In Another Questionable Stage Placement …
British crooner James Blake has graced multiple hip-hop tracks, including ones by Travis Scott and Vince Staples, but having him deliver a sunset set of his atmospheric trip-hop and ambient soul on the main stage before Scott’s action-packed live set — and opposite Lil Uzi Vert’s madness on the second stage — was a questionable decision, considering the crowd. While his gossamer vocals, haunting arrangements and artful melodies were a perfect soundtrack as day segued into night, it was all so chill that the energy level dropped down to almost zero.

Repping for Rock
There may not have been a Pearl Jam or Nine Inch Nails on this year’s bill, but there was some rock in the mix: The multi-racial 99 Neighbors from Burlington, VT impressed Saturday’s crowd with its rap-rocking, Mac Miller-esque “Welcome to Chili’s” and Sunday got a dose of big guitars and gospel-rock melody from British-Nigerian singer-songwriter Jacob Banks. Sunday also saw the fest’s

rockiest act, Brooklyn’s Charly Bliss, led by effervescent singer-guitarist Eva Hendricks, whose quirky power pop and Cyndi Lauper-like demeanor were a rare commodity at MIA.

Jorja SmithMade In America Festival, Day 1, Philadelphia, USA - 31 Aug 2019
CREDIT: RMV/Shutterstock

Old Souls, New Sounds: Jorja Smith and Rosalia
While her music tends to be mid-tempo and laid back, British jazz-soul chanteuse Jorja Smith practically stole Saturday from Cardi B. She brought the cool and sophisticated grooves of her 2018 debut “Lost & Found” to an outdoor festival setting, somehow without without losing an ounce of its dignified nuance. Then again, being dressed for the occasion (in a frilly pink dress with big yellow flowers) didn’t hurt.

RosaliaMade In America Festival, Day 1, Philadelphia, USA - 31 Aug 2019
CREDIT: RMV/Shutterstock

Another impressive newcome was Spanish alt-flamenco singer Rosalia, already known to fans courtesy her acclaimed 2018 album, “El Mal Querer,” and her own starmaking performance on last week’s VMAs. As one of the few Spanish-language artists ever to play MIA (Prince Royce performed back in 2012), Rosalia’s sleek staging, wild choreography and avant-pop folk sounds made for one of the most passionate performances of the festival.

A Puzzling Set From Freddie Gibbs and Madlib
The oddball duo of Freddie Gibbs and Madlib rarely tour, so their set was one of the most anticipated of the festival. So imagine the surprise of the crowd — and maybe even DJ/producer Madlib — when Gibbs said after a short appearance, “We’re done. I got shit to do,” and left, after some wow-inspiring percussive scratching and stellar takes on the slow, twilight-y “Crime Pays” with the rapper’s deep, flinty voice in full jazzy effect.

Hometown Heroes: Tierra Whack, Pink Sweat$, Lil Uzi Vert
Local hero Meek Mill might have had a street named for him, but he’s currently on tour with Future and left several other Philly artists to carry the torch. PinkSweat$ is an anomaly these days — an R&B singer whose recordings see him accompanied only by his own guitar, held the audience in the palm of his hand. North Philly’s future-forward rapper Tierra Whack — whose “Whack World” debut, which contains 15 one-minute-long songs, was one of the most remarkable albums of 2018 — was there was magnetic, smart and crisply original. Dressed in a green outfit nearly as new wave-y as her music, the jerky bolts of music from “Whack World” popped like fireworks. And the eccentric Lil Uzi Vert, one of the late additions to the MIA lineup, did his best on Sunday night to captivate a crowd that had been on its feet for seven hours. Clad in leather pants, he bounded between bouncing party numbers and torrid emo-raps with hard trap rhythms, keeping the crowd satisfied — including Beyonce and Jay-Z who were spotted backstage watching his set.

Less Impressive Were …
Two of the summer’s biggest rappers, Megan Thee Stallion and Blueface, underwhelmed due to either hitting the stage late, or a musically uneven set, respectively. Anderson.Paak was funky and even rousing at times, but too often his sound was lost in a jumble of overly-complex changes and melodies that meandered. And mainstager Gucci Maine – expected to be a major highlight of Sunday’s show – just never achieved liftoff, as his bragging raps wound up devoid of nuance and genuine spirit.

But overall, it made for a diverse and challenging one-stop-shop of talent for a long holiday weekend.

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • US record producer The-Dream arrives for

    Top Music Publishers Come Together for Songs of Hope Honors

    The 15th annual Songs of Hope honors united songwriters, music industry insiders and more than a few preeminent doctors at producer Alex Da Kid’s Sherman Oaks compound on Thursday night. Jimmy Jam returned to host the event, which served as a fundraiser for the ever-vital City of Hope medical treatment center as well as a [...]

  • Monkees/Badfinger/Nazz Supergroup Takes Beatles' 'White Album'

    Monkees/Badfinger/Nazz Supergroup Gets Back to '68 by Touring Beatles' 'White Album'

    The 50th anniversary re-release of 1969’s “Abbey Road” may be just days away, but that doesn’t mean Beatles fans have been there and done that when it comes to celebrating ’68. Todd Rundgren, the Monkees’ Mickey Dolenz, Badfinger’s Joey Molland and several other name musicians of a certain vintage are teaming up to go out [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

  • 'Downton Abbey' Music Gets 'Bigger, Better,

    As 'Downton Abbey' Hits the Silver Screen, the Music, Too, Gets 'Bigger, Better, Grander'

    When “Downton Abbey” fans hear that familiar strings-and-piano theme, a Pavlovian response ensues: Get to the television immediately, because you don’t want to miss a minute of the addictive Crawley family melodrama to follow. This week, with the “Downton Abbey” movie reaching theaters on Friday, fans can’t wait for their fix of Lady Mary and [...]

  • Saweetie

    Saweetie's 'My Type' Is a Smash, but Is it Too Provocative for Top 40?

    Saweetie’s “My Type” is a smash. The high-energy, up-tempto, bad bitch anthem has proven to be an undeniable force. Having won the hearts of TikTok users, radio (rhythmic, urban and now Top 40, logging more than 81,000 combined spins, according to Mediabase) and streaming, where BuzzAngle Music records 160 million U.S. streams to date and [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Peter Coyote Riffs on 'Country Music' and How He Admires and Challenges Ken Burns

    Though an instantly recognizable face from films such as “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “A Walk to Remember” and “Erin Brockovich,” it is Peter Coyote’s voice — a coolly authoritative baritone with a Zen master’s holy roll — that has endeared him to documentary lovers and makers. Alrhough director-writer Alex Gibney used Coyote’s wisened narration for “Enron: [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Reaches Deal With Record Labels on Music Videos

    SAG-AFTRA has reached an agreement with the major record labels on a three-year successor contract to their music video agreement. The union announced Friday that the deal achieves important economic and safety gains for performers working in music videos. Details of the new agreement will not be released until after it is reviewed by the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content