Made In America: beautiful, absurd and quintessentially Philly

Jason Peters

For nearly a decade, the Made In America Festival has been taking over Benjamin Franklin Parkway to highlight the most popular and upcoming musicians in the world, and 2021 was no different.

Despite extreme flooding throughout Philadelphia, the threat of the Delta variant, or the fact that less than a year ago the festival ground was home to a 200+ person homeless encampment — the festival went on without a hiccup.

Press, workers, artists, and attendees were all obligated to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to get in. Face coverings were required at the outdoor event, however, the vast majority of Made In America attendees were maskless mere seconds after walking into the festival. 

Major national headliners like Megan Thee Stallion, Justin Bieber, Lil Baby, and Doja Cat played to tens of thousands. Multi-platinum Compton based rapper Roddy Ricch made sure to thank Jay-Z and Beyonce on stage for having him on the Made In America bill. 

Jason Peters

In years past local talent had been highlighted at MIA—for example West Philly rapper Armani White performed in 2018. However, this year—aside from surprise appearances by Meek Mill and Lil Uzi Vert—no Philadelphia artists were featured at the festival. 

“I think this year specifically is more about getting headliners back on stage,” White told Metro backstage. He alluded to COVID’s effect on touring, noting that it limited fans’ ability to see their favorite artists live. “This is the biggest stage in the city, especially growing up here I just wanted to be able to play Made In America,” said White, who has achieved millions of streams and is one of the most prominent names in Philly hip-hop.

For many artists, this weekend’s festival was their first performance since the initial COVID lockdown.

Jason Peters

And for Roc Nation recording artist Maeta, it was only her third ever performance. “I’ve only done two performances before this — so I was really nervous, and it’s my first ever festival, but I had a great time,” Maeta said, noting “the crowd was amazing and helped me feel more confident.” Maeta is an indie-R&B artist from Indianapolis who described her music as inspired by toxic relationships and her recent transition from middle America to LA. 

Made in America featured a number of local vendors such as Lil’ Trents, Philadelphia Pretzel Factory, and French Toast Bites. The owner of French Toast Bites, Charisse McGill, has been vending at Made In America in 2018.

“I started this whole business because of Jay-Z’s music so I called Roc Nation directly and got through, two days later we were in,” McGill explained. She describes French Toast Bites as “conscious, but fun,” as they provide the festival with vegan and vegetarian options. 

The 2021 Made In America lineup catered to a younger demographic — featuring artists like Doja Cat, Lil Durk, Lil Baby, and Justin Beiber, who are extremely popular with high school and college students. The presence of drunk teenagers was undeniable on the Parkway, many of whom donned a uniform of basketball jerseys and khaki shorts. As anyone who has attended the festival knows, it’s not uncommon to see a 16 or 18 year old passed out on the ground or to watch them climb street lights to get a better view of their favorite artist only to be pelted with beer cans and water bottles as Philly PD demand they come down. It’s almost a rite of passage for local teens to ascend on the Parkway at the end of each summer. 

Not featured at MIA were the usual alternative rock bands or EDM (Electric Dance Music) artists—as recently as 2019 artists like James Black and Hippie Sabotage performed. There were zero EDM or rock acts. Made In America made a clear pivot towards hip-hop and pop. 

Jason Peters

Lovely weather and A-list performances made for another successful Made In America in Philadelphia. The festival hosted a Cause Village where local charities like the NOMO Foundation, ACLU, and various nonprofits engaged with festival attendees. By 6 p.m. of Day 2 of the festival, Cause Village was almost completely dispersed, but MIA touted that more than “15,000 social actions” had been taken.

Yes, Made In America is a beautiful, absurd, and quintessentially Philadelphian music festival.

It is chaotic, energetic, and trying the best it can. 

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