This year, the Fourth of July concert on the Ben Franklin Parkway appears to be geared towards 30-and-over Philadelphians and their families.
No Nicki Minaj, no Ed Sheeran, no J.Cole, no Aloe Blacc. The hot acts have been replaced by performers like Basheer Gray (aka Yazz, known for his role as Hakim Lyons on Empire), the O’Jays, Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes and Leon Bridges. Instead of creative hip-hop jams from The Roots, the night will be capped off by orchestral patriotic favorites from the Philly POPS.
The younger Philly music crowd will to have to get their thrills elsewhere.
Good news: Made in America is that place.
On Sept. 3 and 4, the Parkway will once again be awash in red, white and blue for a huge outdoor music fest. Unlike the Wawa Welcome America concert, this one isn’t free — a two-day pass runs $162 — but headlining acts include Rihanna, Coldplay and ColleGrove (a super-duo made up of Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz), and there’s also the chance to catch rising stars before they hit it big.
Jay Z, who curates Made In America, has been known for bringing on new acts from all genres. This time around, it seems as if the Roc Nation king found a lot of inspiration in XXL’s 2016 Freshman Class — the much-watched list of up-and coming rappers compiled annually by the national hip-hop news mag.
MIA 2016 features no fewer than five acts from the list: Lil Uzi Vert, Desiigner, Lil Yachty, Kodak Black and Denzel Curry. Who are they? Read on.
Lil Uzi Vert adds some local flair to the lineup. Originally from Francisville, the 21-year-old started gaining buzz on the underground circuit in 2014, when he released Purple Thoughtz EP Vol. 1 mixtape. National recognition came after he was featured on Carnage’s ‘WDYW’ alongside ASAP Ferg, who is also slated to perform at MIA.
Uzi believes growing up in North Philadelphia had an impact on his current sound. “Wherever you’re from, you adapt to your environment,” he said in an interview with Spin. “It definitely made my music a little bit more explicit.”
Brooklyn-born Desiigner, 19, seemed to appear out of thin air when “Panda” became a Billboard hit. First heard in a sample on Kanye’s Life of Pablo, it has since been relentlessly permeating radio stations and streaming services.
“The second I put it out, it became a special record,” Desiigner noted recently when speaking with Complex. “Once I put it out it was already like 5K [streams] then over the weekend just went to like, 200K.”
One of the other MIA 2016 performers is still in the process of switching over from being an “internet rapper” to a more radio friendly mainstream artist. Atlanta-based Lil Yachty has more than 50 million plays on his Soundcloud, and his popular song “1 Night” has racked up 29.1 million plays on its own. Much of the 18-year-old musician’s underground hip-hop notoriety can be attributed to how he engages his listeners — apparently they have a very close relationship.
“I’m very interactive with my fans,” Lil Yachty recently told Complex. “We FaceTime and play Xbox together.”
Two Floridians round out the XXL listers. Kodak Black, 19, was born to Haitian immigrant parents and started gaining buzz when a video surfaced of Drake dancing to his song “Skrt.”
“[T]here’s a lot of talent from Florida, and a lot of variety,” Black said in a 2015 interview with Pigeons and Planes when asked about the state’s hip-hop scene. “That goes from football to basketball to rap and all the other stuff.”
Also from the Sunshine State is Denzel Curry, 21, whose rapid fire flow sets him apart from the other Freshman performing at MIA. His uptempo song “ULT” currently has over 1.9 million views on Youtube.
In addition to being a launchpad for up-and-comers, Made in America features lots more established talent. DJ Khaled, St. Lucia, Chance the Rapper, Grimes and Madeon will all be joining the party. So for those disappointed by the lack of hot beats at this year’s July 4th fest, just remember: Philly will be hopping on Labor Day weekend.