Ahhhhh, Labor Day weekend. The “end of summer.” As we prepare for chilly mornings, leaves changing and the smell of football in the air, Labor Day provides us with one last definite hurrah to the summer season. And just as all-white parties still reign supreme nationwide, over the last three years music fans from around the world have converged onto the “City of Brotherly Love,” Philadelphia, to attend the steadily growing Budweiser Made in America festival.
This year marks the fourth installment of the festival in Philly, after venturing to Los Angeles last year for dual bicoastal shows. As a Philly native, I can say the festival’s impact on the city has been huge re: economy, travel, tourism and cultural effects in dealing with millennials. Stay tuned for more M.I.A. coverage on EBONY.com on September 5-6, as I’ll show you where to go to get that real cheesesteak you’ve been wondering about, where to go to get some exclusive gear, and where after the shows are over.
For now, for those looking forward to the lineup schedules to be announced, here are five acts you should look forward to catching this year.
1. Grits & Biscuits. How do you explain to someone who’s never been the Southern HBCU party experience? You could paint the picture of a lot of swag surfing and 808-bass heavy partying, or you could bring them to a Grits & Biscuits function.
A highly popular party over the last five years, Grits & Biscuits’ main focus was to recreate the party experience its founders (brothers Alzo & Maurice Slade and Erika Lewis) were used to. Like most successful parties, Grits & Biscuits was started out of necessity, as a way for the Southern transplant in New York to reconnect under a banner they’re used to: a hot, sweaty dancerie of a good time.
Church fans with the party’s logo on it would be littered among the crowd, Southern hip-hop classics blasting from the speakers, everyone dancing—and suddenly you wouldn’t know if you’re on the East Coast or a party in a small gymnasium at Morehouse or FAMU. Soon enough, you’d start to see celebrities as members of the party’s congregation, and after taking the party out of New York and hitting cities all around the country, Grits caught the eye of Shawn Carter and Beyoncé Knowles.
What started as an intimate gathering at a small Brooklyn venue has transformed into a party of over 50,000 people. Trust and believe, in the middle of a music festival, there’s no better time to get loose with the boys (and girls) of Grits & Biscuits.
2. Dreamville Records. As frontman J.Cole has reached a higher plateau of mainstream success with his recent 2014 Forest Hills Drive tour, he’s done a great job of getting his team the experience that few rap artists can, performing at festivals and sold-out arenas and stadiums. And make no mistake, the likes of Cozz, Omen and Bas do more than hold up their end of the bargain in bringing one of the better shows you’ve seen in a good while.
Whether it’s songs off of Bas’s Last Winter, Cozz’s Cozz and Effect or Elephant Eyes by Omen, the trio’s vast library of music are more than enough to turn a new listener into a member of the imprint’s cult following. Just make sure you have “Fiji Water in your iron” while the “Love Drug” takes you to your “Dreams.”
3. Mick Jenkins. Chicago by way of Huntsville, Alabama’s Mick Jenkins has done more than pay his dues on the rising Internet artist circuit over the last couple of years, and his hard work has manifested into an appearance on the Made In America stage. His sappy, jazz-infused sound is met with hard hitting, vivid lyricism that always seems to have a lasting message attached to it—as shown on his 2014 project, The Water[s], and his recent EP release, Wave[s]. Apart from that Chicago movement of popular and talented artists, Jenkins is looking to make his own mark in Philadelphia and leave with way more fans and supporters than he came with. .
4. Meek Mill. Philadelphia’s own Meek Mill’s 2015 year could be summed up by the phrase “When keeping it real goes wrong…” His highly anticipated Dreams Worth More Than Money achieved both cultural and sales success; the relationship with his new girlfriend Nicki Minaj was picking up steam and was the “relationship goal” for teenage girls nationwide; and he was preparing to go on the road as a secondary headliner in Minaj’s major tour.
But after an ill-timed jab at Drake basically led to the rap game (plus several politicians and a few burger chains) turning on him, one can say that his performance at this year’s festival could be exactly what he needs to get back in the positive eye. In my opinion, DWMTM is still one of the best rap albums of the year, and maybe a show in front of his hometown is the best thing for him. Will he use that Made in America screen to finally answer Drake’s call proper? Or will he push past the beef and get back to these records? One thing’s for sure: you won’t want to miss that.
5. Future. No rapper, I repeat, no rapper has had a more impactful year than one Nayvadius Wilburn, a.k.a. Future. From his run of mixtape after mixtape being heralded as some of the best music to come out this year, to his album DS2 continuing that momentum and even taking it to new heights, Future Hendrix has raised himself into the upper echelon of hip-hop acts, even if it’s just for the moment.
Whether you’ve wanted to blow through some “Commas,” or have procured a pair of Gucci flip-flops, the word of “Fewcha” has spread amongst the masses, creating a extremely loyal #FutureHive in the process. If you’re at Made in America, find me when Future goes on. Trust me.
If this is your first M.I.A., here are a couple of tips: bring cash, an extendable battery, and most importantly, be ready to have a good time. And thank me later after you check out these acts in person.
Cory Townes was born and raised in Philadelphia, and currently lives in Brooklyn. A devout Philly sports fan, Townes is the Social Media Manager for EBONY.com. When he’s not saluting the plug or bringing headbands back in the 2015, you can reach him on Twitter @CoryTownes.