After the surreal experience that was co-headliner Beyoncé's set the day prior, day two of the Made in America festival had some pretty big shoes to fill. Thankfully, with the caliber of raw hip hop and pop talent that was slated to hit the stages on Sunday evening, the challenge was met.
One of the first major acts to perform was Fabolous, who took his set to the Liberty Stage at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The MC brought Brooklyn to Philly, performing some of his signature hits including “Throw It in the Bag” and “Breathe.” While Fab’s performance was anything but forgettable, the energy was brought to a new high when Philly rapper Freeway showed up as he closed. Decked out in Sixers gear for his set — Bey-Inspired, bruh — he got the crowd rocking to “What We Do.”
Over at the Rocky Stage, Action Bronson began his set with his Billy Joel-sampling “Brand New Car.” After some awkward sonic bleeding mid-performance, the New York MC joked, “It’s hard to be fat in the summer,” before diving full throttle into Phil Collins’ “Easy Lover” and a little Kim Kardashian/Ray J sex tape reference that left the crowd in stitches.
Over at the Tidal stage, Jidenna brought his debonair aesthetic to the masses, performing his signature breakout smash “Classic Man.” Despite the massive success of the song, the highlight of the Wondaland artist’s set came during his performance of “Yoga,” when he invited some willing ladies on stage to practice their… um… yoga. Let’s just say that Jidenna made sure that three-piece suit wasn’t in the way.
Hitting the Liberty Stage next was Future who brought his album DS2 to life on that dusty Sunday afternoon. Describing the idea behind "I Serve the Base," the rapper told the crowd that it narrates how the music industry "tried to take the soul out of me." The gritty, bass-heavy, nearly drug-induced sounds of DS2 were all represented in his set, which ended with him announcing that another full-length LP is slated to release later this year.
Next on the list of major acts was Detroit MC Big Sean who dominated the Rocky Stage with his clique — that clique being a few thousand attendees who sang along to every word of his raps. It was basically a chorus ensuing almost instantaneously as the rapper delved into his first cut. The most priceless moment being when the entire field of thousands shouted a resounding “I’m way up, I feel blessed.”
Sean balanced the high octane set with his consciously timely “One Man Can Change the World” before, of course, concluding with the ever-quotable “I Don’t F**k With You.” Just so there was no confusion, Sean told the crowd before he left, “But I do f**k with you.”
While every hip hop act thus far annihilated the stage in their own right, arguably the king of day two’s hip hop circuit had to be the unadulteratedly raw adrenaline packed offering from Jermaine Cole. Playing no games, the MC made his way to the stage in a simple white tee, camo drop crotch pants and red, white and black Nikes — gotta be comfy to make that impact and judging from the crowd's response, it was a mission accomplished.
Coming on just as the sun set, Cole started off with a trip down memory lane. Describing the opening cut as the time he tried to get his “first piece of p***y,” he delved into “Wet Dreamz,” detailing those socially awkward years of adolescence. He then transitioned into the more socially conscious George W. Bush sampling in “No Role Modelz,” mouthing the words from Bush’s speech as the crowd looked on. The MC’s energy was so unmatched that one had to pinch oneself to serve as a reminder that “Hey, he’s not a headliner.” Raking in the largest crowd next to Beyoncé, Cole tore the house down, ending with the 2013 smash “Power Trip.”
Bringing the weekend [no pun intended] to a sweet close — grab bae for this one, ’cause he definitely had everyone in their feelings — was co-headliner The Weeknd, who had the ladies swooning and the fellas slow-grooving closely behind. Though day two of the Jay Z-curated event was primarily hip hop centered, the Canadian pop star held his own. He played the closing slot, usually left for famed rock acts, drawing a respectably large crowd as he made his entrance with just his silhouette, complete with his high hair and a blood-red backdrop at the Rocky Stage.
While acts earlier in the day were ordering onlookers to “make some noise,” the singer took a more suave approach, asking, “Made in America, can I get sexy for you?” Of course, the answer was a resounding, "Yes."
Seeing as his catalog of hits outranks many of those who have been mainstream acts years prior to his debut, The Weeknd had no trouble selecting performance cuts, but he also made sure to sprinkle in those features to keep the crowd on their toes, with his Ariana Grande-led track “Love Me Harder” being one of the crowd favorites of the night.
To prove the romantic impact of his set, even after the dust settled, couples all throughout the venue could be seen holding each other, while standing among crushed 25 oz. beer cans, lost flannel shirts and bandanas.
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(Photos from left: Splash News, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Anheuser-Busch, Splash News)