Philadelphia Takes Center Stage for Jay Z’s ‘Made in America’ Festival

Jay Z (Photo: AP)

For the second straight year, Philadelphia will serve as the center of the Musical Universe for at least one weekend, as the “Made In America” music festival descends upon its Art Museum steps over the Labor Day Weekend.

With the success of last year’s two-day event, Anheuser-Busch, marketing mogul Steve Stoute, and modern day renaissance man Jay Z decided to bringthe event back to Philadelphia, and it aims was to further exceed expectations and continue to push the envelope, as well as popular culture, forward. With Beyonce and Nine Inch Nails headlining the two dates respectively, the Hip-Hop, R&B, Rock, Pop, and EDM genres are well represented by a “Who’s Who” in today’s musical spectrum.

Many critics initially wondered why Philadelphia, of all cities, was selected to host such a monumental event, but the city welcomed the festival in 2012 with open arms.

Over 80,000 attendees filled the Ben Franklin Parkway, and after covering all municipal costs, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter reported that the city brought in over $10 Million dollars from last year’s show. And with the global publicity shining down onto the city, it only made sense to bring it back.

“The cultural benefits are clear. An initiative like this sustains our image of artistic culture, creativity, and collaboration. It unmistakably makes it ‘Philly’,” says political activist Marc Lamont Hill.

“The festival did what local and state legislatures couldn’t; bring in funds to the city without leaning on the already-pressed middle class. It sheds our violent, angry image. When you create a space for the people, they stand by it. The best story we can tell about Made In America is that nothing bad happened.” It further leads to change the question at hand; it’s no longer “Why Philadelphia?” but “Why not Philadelphia?

There aren’t that many cities around the world that is as entrenched in the music industry as Philadelphia. From the historical relevance of Gamble & Huff and the world-famous “Sound Of Philadelphia,” to the soulful, genre bending sounds of Hall & Oates, to Hip-Hop pioneers DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, Philly music is always relevant. And many of the city’s homegrown talents embrace what opportunities that “Made In America” can bring to the city and it’s creative class.

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“I love the idea, Philadelphia is a musical town, so bringing all of these artists to one spot can only improve the creativity,” says multi-Grammy Award winning producer, songwriter, and member of the legendary Roots band, James Poyser. “With everything else that’s growing here, who knows what can happen in a couple of years? It can establish itself as a destination festival among the likes of Lollapalooza and South By Southwest.”

The Future

With the proposed growth of the festival and the vision that Jay Z and Steve Stoute have for its future, there is a distinct possibility that Made In America could firmly plant its roots in Philadelphia, further promoting the growth of the city’s creative culture and potential collaborators. Speaking to rising Philadelphia rapper Chill Moody, the lack of a Philadelphia artist on this year’s bill only creates the drive to change that.

“[The festival’s] great, but I feel that we as Philly artists need to work harder to be recognized to appear on the Made In America stage.  We have to do whatever we can to gain the attention of the nation’s eyes and ears.”

In order for the relationship between the city of Philadelphia and Made In America to be etched in stone, there has to be some type of collaborative effort between the festival and its initiatives and those who make the major decisions, both financially as well as creatively.

Many strides have already been made in the development of that relationship, and as the festival goes into its second year, it can only go up. And from the eyes of the pioneers of the Philly music scene, it’s a sight some thought they’d never see. “To go from growing up in Philadelphia, to winning the first ever Grammy in the Rap category, to seeing a multi-million dollar festival right in our backyard, it’s special,” says world-acclaimed DJ and producer DJ Jazzy Jeff. “It shows that the hard work put on by those who came before me, the hard work we put into this, and the hard work that those after us isn’t going to fade away.”

So as the superpowers of the music industry descend upon Philadelphia International Airport today, we are left waiting to see what will happen next, and it’s pretty safe to say that we are ready for it.  And as Marc Lamont Hill put it, “Made In America is what happens when the artistic and creative communities connect with the governing bodies and the public at large and something special happens.”

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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