International stars, local talent shine bright at Made in America

Made in America
Jason Peters

Made In America 2022 is a physical manifestation of the change of guard taking place in pop culture. Philadelphia’s largest festival did not feature Drake, Kanye West, Justin Bieber or Megan Thee Stallion — but rather an assortment of viral sensations, local favorites, and international superstars.

This year’s lineup featured local artists such as KUR from Uptown Philadelphia, Armani White from West Philly, Jazmine Sullivan, Lil Uzi Vert, and Eric Jamal of Coast Contra, as well as a surprise performance by D-Sturdy and the Philly Goats. Armani White told Metro Philly last year: “This is the biggest stage in the city, especially growing up here I just wanted to be able to play Made in America,” and this year he did exactly that, making his return to Made In America after four long years. White’s enthusiasm was evident as he proceeded to bring his mother on stage for his performance of “DIAMOND DALLAS.” and then stage dive onto an air mattress during his hit song “BILLIE EILISH.” which was #1 on TikTok and has been streamed more than 60 million times in 3 months. 

There was a stark comparison between the demographic of attendees at Made In America between Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s attendance was the typical MIA crowd — drunk, white young adults — however, Sunday’s attendance was older and much more diverse, almost entirely hinged on the Michael Jackson-like, Beatlemania style allure following Bad Bunny.

The gravity of Bad Bunny in this current moment cannot be minimized — the radio station 106.1 Rumba blasted reggaeton, fans dawned flags representing Puerto Rico, Ecuador, and a slew of countries from the West Indies and Latin America. Artists on Sunday’s lineup included Fuerza Regida, Chimbala, and Ryan Castro, who performed almost entirely in Spanish. Co-headliner Burna Boy emphasized the international trajectory of both MIA and music in general. Burna Boy is perhaps the largest pop artist out of the African continent in some time, and Bad Bunny has brought Latin American music to the mainstream. 

Attendees Hugo and Josh, both 22, waited outside of the festival staring at 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning to get to the front of the Rocky Stage where Bad Bunny was performing. Hugo said “You gotta support the Spanish people,” and Josh added “He’s changing the culture, he’s defining a whole different stage for the Hispanic heritage, so he connects with all of us and makes us part of his music.” Along with Josh and Hugo was 6-year-old Elvis, who has been standing at the front of the stage from 12:30 to 9:30 p.m. when Bad Bunny took the stage. “I love his music and have been listening to it since it came out,” said Elvis.

Jason Peters

Cause Village and local eats

For the last few years, Made In America has hosted a Cause Village highlighting local charities and organizations spanning an entire strip of the Ben Franklin Parkway. Nationally recognizable groups like Planned Parenthood, the Shawn Carter Foundation, and Habitat For Humanity sat alongside Philly-specific groups accruing petition sign-ups and spreading awareness of their causes. 

One local organization present was the NOMO Foundation, which executive director Rickey Duncan says stands for “New Options More Opportunities,” they are “an early intervention prevention program that provides a pathway of services for young people 11 to 26, such as career services and housing programs. “Being selected for a 2nd year in a row by Jay-Z and Made in America is an amazing feeling, said Duncan, “Getting recognition for our programming, being able to expand our awareness and partner base nationally with other cause village members through participation is an amazing opportunity that we are appreciative for.”

Other local groups included Banksgiving which is a local economic and community development nonprofit, who featured a craps table to entice donations for the cause. Frontline Dads, the Philadelphia Prison Society, and a few Philadelphia public service offices also had real estate in Cause Village. 

Local eateries and small businesses are also a staple of the Made in America experience. Tents staffed by local businesses fed the masses along the Ben Franklin Parkway. The owner of French Toast Bites Charisse McGill has been at MIA for three years, but this year was special to her because “I was able to increase my staff, we have a staff of ten now, I never had a staff of ten. Before I had to ask friends to come help me work Made In America but now we’re fully staffed which is a huge relief.” McGill sites Jay-Z’s music as a huge inspiration for her work ethic “I’m a direct byproduct of Jay-Z’s music in terms of entrepreneurship, I made a beer because Jay-Z has a liquor,” she explains. Over the last year French Toast Bites has collaborated on a local beer with Yards Brewing, a gelato with local company Clout Cups, and a coffee with Bean2Bean Coffee Company. “I like to keep it local because we’re all in this together,” said McGill.

Thomas Harris, the owner of Vagabond Kitchen and Tap House in Ventnor, New Jersey, was operating a food truck at Made In America, in fact this was the first time his food was served in Pennsylvania. “Being from Atlantic City, this isn’t too far away… all the positive feedback we’ve heard about Made In America made us really excited to get involved.”

Jason Peters

The Impact of MIA

Made In America serves as an economic growth opportunity for local businesses, a chance for local charities to get funding and volunteers and is also the largest party in Philadelphia every summer. There was no shortage of drunk teenagers and twenty-somethings puking, passing out in large crowds, and taking deep naps in the shade. A festival of this size is never going to be perfect, but MIA has struck a wonderful balance of chaos and order. 

There were little to no hiccups in the overall facilitation of festival, however early Saturday it seemed like things could snowball as both Key Glock and Kodak Black missed their set times and didn’t perform. Despite bouts of aggressive heat and the antics of Key Glock and Kodak Black, Made In America was a success. Fans lined the outside of the festival just to hear Bad Bunny and Burna Boy, standing atop cars and on the median along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Local artists were given the opportunity to shine and new artists were granted stage time at a major festival. Made in America is an opportunity for everyone in Philadelphia to shine and it’s refreshing to see Roc Nation take that responsibility seriously.