Budweiser's Made in America Festival took place Labor Day weekend. The brainchild of Jay Z and Live Nation returned to Philadelphia for its fifth installment and was live streamed by Tidal.
There was such a conglomeration of music and artists that it's hard for me to categorize it in terms of one particular genre. Instead, it's easier to talk about the festival in terms of a culmination of moments that came together to create a truly unique experience.
First off, we need to talk about the aspiring artists who performed on the Tidal Stage. These included up-and-comers such as Sir The Baptist, Sophie Beem, and Bibi Bourelly. They were watching their dreams unfold before their eyes as they were performing at a major festival for the first time in their careers.
Watching the singers observe the crowd as they shared their message with fans — as eager to listen as they were to sing — showcased a special relationship you might be pressed to find elsewhere.
As the day slowly turned into night, each performance that came and went truly felt legendary in its own way. On day one, Bryson Tiller attracted a huge crowd on the Rocky Stage and continued to cement his foothold in the R&B music scene.
On day two, Chance the Rapper continued to lead the soul wave with his energetic hip-hop music. Watching fans in the audience sing in worship together as Chance rapped and trumpets blared from the stage was a magical moment. The headliners didn't disappoint either and capped off each day with glittering performances.
There was Rihanna's epic 27-song headlining set on the first night, where she performed an array of music from "Umbrella" to "Diamonds" to "Needed Me" while her family watched from the crowd.
Coldplay summoned all of their energy to close out the festival with a jubilant performance and rousing firework display. As a special touch, the concert wristbands changed colors throughout the performance, even glowing yellow as Chris Martin belted out the lyrics to, well, "Yellow."
I was lucky enough to be on stage during Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz's set on Saturday night, which made for one of the greatest concert-viewing experiences of my life. The sea of people stretched as far as the sun setting off in the distance. The rows of people never seemed to end, stretching all the way back to the high rise swing set toward the food trucks set in the rear of the festival grounds.
Never have I seen so many people congregate together in one place to watch music. Listening to them supply the echoing vocals to the supergroup that is ColleGrove proved how much of an impact they have on this generation of young music fans, regardless of which genre of music is their favorite.
Whether it was a mixtape Weezy track like "Rollin'," or an album cut such as "Gotta Lotta," when it's time to go in, Weezy and 2 Chainz are the generals to lead the charge.
Although the world between artist and fan can feel separate at times, the festival provided an outlet that brought down those walls. It was all about being inspired by one another and how we are all grinding it out in the world.
Everyone at the festival shared the mindset that we were there to watch our dreams become a reality. Observing the crowd and artists over the two-day period made me remember that we all begin in a similar place in this world. It's our job to motivate each other to achieve a higher level that we never thought we could get to.
Meeting a legend like Lil Wayne was a dream come true for me, but watching and meeting these younger artists, setting sail on their burgeoning careers, are moments I will never forget.
You can check out our exclusive interviews with some of these artists below. Enjoy, be inspired, and be sure to check out more of their music on Tidal.
Sir The Baptist
What's it like being at Made in America and performing on the Tidal Stage?
Sir The Baptist: It feels great. This might sound cheesy, but it's a dream come true. This is what you want to do with your art. You want to get out here and spread your message. To be here, I'm not going to take it lightly. I want to drill in what that really stands for and talk about how we are all made in America.
Yeah, that's what America is all about. We have the freedom to do set out and accomplish our dreams. However, as you talk about in your music, some people get in the way of others trying to live freely. Unfortunately, some people have passed away due to some careless actions. In your song "Wake Up," you say, "What if Trayvon was the next Martin Luther?" It talks a lot about change. It feels fitting that you're here, preaching this positive message.
Right, when I'm recording, I'm thinking about what people want to talk about and what is important to them. You should be able to live free, choose where you want to live, and what you want to do in your career. It's about keeping your morals and relationships positive. I'm really thinking about the people who are going to take time to listen to the song. I want to give them something to hold on to.
What comes first for you when you're making music? The music is powerful itself and then the lyrics really cement it.
I think my intentions come first. I like to talk to my people about specific things that I think they need to hear in order to contribute culture and their own life. So, it's about the message and mission. After that, you allow the music to accompany that. At some point, I want to record an album like Sinatra, with a full orchestra. I recently worked with Lee Musiker, who has worked with Sinatra and Tony Bennett, so that's where my process is. I'm idolizing these legends that came before me.
Yeah, you definitely don't see that too much these days with a full orchestra, but it's nice when you can incorporate that.
Yeah, you have to find ways to implement a person-to-person feeling. It's in the music and the way you make it.
What's coming in the future?
Right now, I'm finalizing the album, which will be on Tidal. There's going to be a story line which connects to our day-to-day life. There's music about my sister, my auntie, my brother, my cousin. I just want to relate to people as much as possible. It's about storytelling.
Yeah, I love when artists allow you to connect like that. For example, on Lil Wayne's mixtapes, you can get a real understanding of his life and what it was like. It paints a full picture.
Yeah, we were just actually talking about Wayne on the drive over here. He's always had that good vibe and the lyrics. Line for line, he was giving you something that was crazy. Every word matters.
Yeah, it's nice to see that quality in artists today. Anything else you'd like to add before you get out of here?
I just want everyone to do good. Eventually, I'd love to see people helping each other out more. If you have an extra dollar or two, pay for the person behind you. If you see someone on the street, give them some money. I wrote this song with Musiq Soulchild called "Pass the Plate," which is about sharing with other people. We can change the world if we help each other. I'm passing out bags to my fans that have water, power bars, and vitamin C. You know, stuff you don't get from artists when you're at a festival. I want to take care of them and help them. It's different. Are you serving or is it about self-interest? That's just me, I'm not judging, so I'm grateful to Tidal and Made in America for allowing me to do that. Let's all come together. It's a butterfly effect. Everyone help each other.
After your set, Jay Z actually showed up to meet you. What was that like?
It was amazing. After my set, he walked up to me and told me he was following my story and proud of me. They said he didn't do that for anyone else at the festival, so it was truly a special moment. I couldn't believe it happened. It's even more motivation to keep on going and preaching my message.
What does it mean to you to perform at Made in America and the Tidal Stage?
Sophie Beem: This was my first time performing at a festival and it was so much fun. I had two new songs I performed and I was with my four dancers. So it's really cool to be out here performing for everybody.
What has this year been like for you? What are you working on at the moment?
I'm in the studio a lot, working on my album. I'm really excited about it. My song "Girls Will Be Girls" off my self-titled EP was in the movie Bad Moms. That was a huge deal for me. It was in one of the scenes and it also plays over the credits. I actually wrote the song a few years back and it just fit perfectly for the movie. The directors reached out to me and wanted to feature it in the film. This is my year of firsts. My first tour with Charlie Puth, first time performing in a stadium opening on Beyoncé's tour, first music festival, and now I need to try my first Philly cheesesteak.
That's all so awesome. What's planned for the rest of the year?
Definitely some performances here and there, and my album. The tours and those experiences were so incredible. It was so welcoming. It was all a dream come true. When I stepped on stage, it was mindblowing to see all of those people. The reaction is so amazing, you just want to do it again and again.
Was this your first time at Made in America and on the Tidal Stage?
Bibi Bourelly: Yeah, it was sick. I got to experience this completely new vibe and to see all the kids in the crowd. It was a lot of fun.
You had a bunch of success in the music industry already. It's awesome that you are now pursuing your solo career.
Yeah, I feel like I have always wrote for myself. None of the records I wrote for everyone else were actually meant for them. It just kind of happened that way. I just feel super blessed to be able to even make music. Free the Real was about when I moved out to Los Angeles and I was failing in high school academically. I've been through a lot, struggling with school, so it was written during a time when I had to persevere. Everyone around me was telling me what I knew was possible, wasn't possible. It's just about embracing yourself and truths. You know, owning your life and owning who you are.
That's something you definitely hear on the track "Sally." It also has this throwback, swing vibe. It was nice to hear something real.
I think my biggest thing as an artist is to not be limited to one genre. I don't listen to music that way and I don't make music that way. I think music is music. It's either good or it isn't. I think you can personalize anything. I could create an album that has a country, pop, and rock song. I don't like being limited to one box. It's about being genuine.
So what's planned for the rest of the year? Is there a part two on the way?
Yeah, it's dropping later this month. I'm on my headlining tour right now. I just did some European shows with Rihanna, opening for her. I also did some other festivals in Europe and now we're going all over North America. I got a studio in the back of my bus and we're just going to create some dope music. I get to work on my album later in the year. It's all really exciting.
What does it mean to you to be at Made in America and performing on the Tidal Stage?
Levi Carter: It means a lot and it means even more that I have my family with me. I'm just happy to be here and to perform.
Where are you from?
I grew up in the Bronx and went to school in Virginia.
You have such an original sound, I don't even want to categorize it to one thing. How would you describe your sound and your projects, Antisocial and Presence of a Lord?
It's definitely an original sound, but I'm just happy people are liking it and I plan on continuing to grow. It won't sound like this forever, I just want to keep evolving and putting on for my fans. That's what it's all about. It's for the kids and the culture.
What motivates you when you get into the studio? You said the fans, but are there any artists that inspire you?
Just my environment, the people around me, and what's going on in the world. For example, Travis Scott just dropped an album … I just get inspiration from anybody out there working. I don't even have to know them, the culture motivates me to keep on putting on for the kids.
What can we expect from you down the road?
I got a lot of stuff I'm working on right now. We're going to finish up this tour and then I'm probably going to go out on my own tour sometime in October. Right now, I'm just trying to stay inspired to keep recording music. I have a lot of stuff, visuals, music, et cetera. Shout out to my team, Hov, and the Roc family. We're ready to set it off and to show the world we're the next generation and we're next up.
Tell me about performing on the Tidal Stage and Made in America.
Kevin Garrett: I've only been here once, to attend last year. So it was awesome to perform this year. This is the first show that I've been able to step away from the piano. I was a little nervous, but it was cool. I had fun.
So you have the new single "Precious" and the EP Mellow Drama. Did you get a chance to perform that out here?
Yeah, I basically performed the whole thing. We started off with the EP and then performed the single "Precious" for the first time at the end.
Was that recorded recently?
I did it all in my bedroom in December. I've been touring since November 2014, since I released "Coloring," and finally had some time this summer to revisit the music I created over the holidays. So it was cool to get one of those polished and put it out in the world.
What's your recording process like?
I've always been on my own in terms of writing. I like finishing songs once I start. I went to school for audio engineering and taught myself how to record. So I have that set up in my bedroom, it's something a lot of people do out there. I really like analog gear, so I have keyboards and synths set up. I recorded that and edited it while I was creating it. It was very organic. I think being able to do the whole thing yourself, keeps you super connected to it. I don't do it like that every time, but writing the song itself is always the same. I'm on my own with that.
Do the lyrics or the sound come first? Is there a specific order?
Well, for the song "Precious," my friend tweeted something a few years ago. It just kind of hit me, "Don't be so precious about it." I remember I texted her and told her I was going to put it in a song. But yeah, I like to figure out the melodies and then the lyrics come a bit later. Sometimes the lyrics are just placeholders, which I'll change later, but sometimes they stick.
That's awesome. Are you currently working on a new album?
Yeah, I'm always working. I'll be touring a bit in Europe for the next few months and then hopefully get some more stuff out around that time. I think I've been writing my album my whole life. I'm independent right now, so I have some freedom in terms of creativity. I like telling a story, that's the kind of artist I am. I think a lot of bigger artists are beginning to embrace that again as well. There's an art to the singles as well and I think you can cultivate them in a way that connects to tell a story. Every album needs a few songs that are in the mood as well. It's all very exciting.
You just performed on the Tidal Stage, what was the experience like for you?
Honduras: It's been amazing. It was an honor being asked to play and we're happy to be here.
You guys dropped Gathering Rust. What was the process like recording that project?
We recorded Gathering Rust on our own and then went on tour for five months after that. We did some West Coast dates. We had to drive out there in three days and then drive all the way back to the East Coast. We call our van the Desert Storm and that's all you need to know.
What's in the works for you guys now? You guys have a really great vibe with the different riffs you incorporate.
We're working on our next album now. We're currently in the writing phase and then will start to record it from there. It's kind of distorted pop music, we like to find that groove. We like finding those groovy moments and letting it ride for a minute. It's definitely a dream come true performing here. It's one of the biggest festivals we ever played.