Jay Z, founder and curator of the Made in America festival, will be back on top of the bill this year for the first time since 2012, joined by fest alum North Carolina rapper J. Cole. Along with that double shot of hip-hop, pop EDM duo the Chainsmokers will also lead the bill on Labor Day weekend on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
There’s significant talent on the undercard, with “Bad and Boujee” Georgia rap trio Migos, alt-R&B songwriter and vocalist Solange — sister-in-law of the festival founder (with whom she once had an infamous incident in an elevator), who will also play the Roots Picnic on June 3 — and hard-hitting interracial rap duo Run the Jewels. Left-of-center and R&B-friendly Swedish electrono-pop band Little Dragon are also on tap, along with EDM DJ-producer Kaskade and Atlanta rapper 21 Savage.
— Budweiser MIA Fest (@MIAFestival) May 1, 2017
Made in America, now in its sixth year and no longer seeming all that much of a nuisance to Parkway residents in comparison to the NFL draft, is settling into its identity as first and foremost a hip-hop festival, with a significant EDM element, plus a dash of rock. Last year, an enormous rock — or at least soft rock — headliner in Coldplay, and in years past Pearl Jam and Kings of Leon have coheadlined. There is no rock band of anything close to that stature on the bill this year, however.
Deeper into the bill, though, are some well-curated selections, with Philadelphia represented significantly on the secondary stage. 215-bred pop duo Marian Hill, who broke big with an Apple commercial this year, are among the spotlighted secondary acts, along with rappers Pusha T and DMX, Ethiopian American singer Kelela, British piano balladeer Sampha, and crowd-pleasing Minneapolis alt-hip-hop singer and rapper Lizzo. Philly rapper and singer PnB Rock — a.k.a. Rakeem Allen — is also featured.
The Philly indie-rock contingent is an impressive bunch: Three-quarters female South Philly rockers Queen of Jeans, hellacious punk band Mannequin Pussy fronted by Marisa Dabice, impassioned more-than-just-emo rockers Beach Slang, and indie folk fivesome Mt. Joy. Not from here but not to be missed: Providence, R.I., fearsome and politically engaged punk rockers Downtown Boys, led by remarkable front woman Victoria Ruiz.
In the inaugural year, Jay Z both headlined (with special guest Kanye West) and guested with Pearl Jam at the fest, which draws up to 50,000 per day to the Parkway. Since then, he has mostly been seen smoking cigars and observing other acts, including his wife, Beyoncé (she's headlined twice, most recently in 2015), and hobnobbing with celebs like former President Bill Clinton, who showed up to work the crowds last year during the presidential campaign. Jay Z's appearance this year raises expectations that the entertainment mahoff is going to get back to the business of making music in 2017.
Cole, who records for Jay Z’s Roc Nation label, played Made in America twice before, in 2014 and 2015. That first appearance by the rapper, born Jermaine Cole, came shortly after he made headlines for weighing in on the controversy surrounding the shooting death of Michael Brown with his song “Be Free.” His chart-topping 2016 studio album 4 Your Eyez Only is a rare rap release with no featured rhymers other than Cole himself.
The Chainsmokers are the New York DJ duo of Andrew Taggart and Alex Paul, who have had an unending series of hits since breaking through with “#Selfie” in 2014. Those hits include 2015's “Roses,” featuring Philadelphia singer Elizabeth Mencel, also known as Rozes, who’s a safe bet to be a special guest with the group on the Parkway come Labor Day weekend.