Mark your calendars: a Labor Day staple is right around the corner. Made in America, the Jay-Z curated two-day musical festival, returns to Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sept. 1-2 to showcase some of the best acts in the world of hip-hop and beyond. Since its inception in 2012, the festival has grown into a cultural landmark that reflects the forward-thinking ideas of the historic city itself. With artists like Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, Zedd, Post Malone, and Diplo topping the bill, Made in America is by no means short on talent this year.
However, this does not mean that musical discoveries are not to be had. We combed through this year’s incredible Made in America lineup to hand-select some of our favorite acts that are not to be missed. These are our ten acts you have to catch at this year’s Made in America, and a playlist that Jay-Z himself would approve of.
It’s no mystery that we are fans of Hobo Johnson & The Lovemakers here, as we are in the midst of prepping ourselves for his forthcoming “Bring Your Mom” tour. Still no word on whether our moms are available to make in out, but we can say for certain that a Hobo Johnson show is a show not to miss. First going viral with the release of his NPR Tiny Desk Contest video for “Peach Scone,” Hobo Johnson has continued to amaze his rapidly growing fan base with his unique blend of spoken word hip-hop and alternative.
Lil Skies is by no means your typical Soundcloud rapper. Beyond his hard, tattoo-saturated exterior, lies an impressive lyrical wit whose melodic delivery is reminiscent of artists 50 Cent and Lil Wayne. His impressive style of delivery and mesmerizing production has led him to develop a notable following in the matter of a couple short years. Releasing his debut album Life of a Dark Rose in 2017, Lil Skies cemented his claim as something more than another Soundcloud rapper. A straight-A student throughout high school and a promising rapper this early in his career, Lil Skies is undoubtedly an act to catch.
Injury Reserve is as rare a rap act as they come. The Arizona-based trio makes music evocative of the golden days of hip-hop, bringing forth much-deserved comparisons to the likes of A Tribe Called Quest. Yet, that is only the first layer of this intriguing alternative rap trio. As much as their music is comprised of the sounds and daily struggles of everyday life experiences, it also aptly explores themes of societal and political issues. Critical of the music industry and addressing deeply-rooted issues, Injury Reserve makes music that is equal parts reflective, captivating, and rife with moments to thoroughly dissected.
Music flows through the veins of Illinois-based rapper Kweku Collins. Playing African drums on-stage alongside his dad since the tender age of four, it almost seems destined that Kweku would pick up the proverbial torch. Transitioning into making his own music in his bedroom when he was a teenager, he spent years polishing craft before gracing the world with his debut EP, 2015’s Say It Here While It’s Safe. Since the EP’s release, Kweku has delivered two more stunning projects, 2016’s Nat Love and 2017’s Grey, that build even further on his relaxed brand of hip-hop that pulls from a myriad of inspirations.
Considering who Sheck Wes has in his court, chances are you will be seeing a lot more of him in the years to come. The Kanye West and Travis Scott championed rapper and producer makes hard-hitting and hostile rap that is perfect for a mosh pit at any venue, or festival for that matter. The Harlem native has only four singles to date, but each one is as volatile as the last. From the breakout chant-worthy debut “Mo Bamba” to the latest release “Chippi Chippi,” Sheck Wes is not an artist who asks for your attention. He demands it. Also, did we mention that a young Sheck Wes skipped out a high school basketball playoff game to participate in the unveiling of the Yeezy Season 3 collection in Madison Square Garden?
They say punk is not a sound; it is an ethos. Los Angeles-based by way of New York rapper and producer Jpegmafia is the crystallization of this ethos. Crafting a sound that is chaotic, dark, and rife with humor, Jpegmafia is an act you cannot pull your eyes or ears away from. The critically-acclaimed artist makes no attempt to skirt around issues that are difficult to address. Instead, he actively speaks to those issues with an intense, rapid-fire sense of urgency that only heightens the raw intensity of his sound and the matters at hand. Is it always an easy listening experience? Not always. Is it an act you need to listen to and catch live at least once in your life? Most definitely.
The all-encompassing, shadowy world of SAINt JHN is one you will want to lose yourself in. The Brooklyn native makes cinematic music with deep, rumbling bass that falls in the perfect middle between hip-hop and R&B. Like a darker version of The Weeknd that retains all the underlying beauty, SAINt JHN makes music that is a perfect fit for the radio or a nighttime drive with the bass fully blasted. Forgoing any major label or marketing push, the Brooklyn artist released his debut album Collection One in 2018 to much acclaim. An expansive 13 tracks of moody R&B and hip-hop, SAINt JHN is proving he can do it all on his own terms.
Saba may describe himself as an “ultra nerd,” but the Chicago-based rapper and producer’s music is imbued with a vibe quite like no other. First gaining attention for lending his voice to “Angels” off Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap and performing the single live with Chance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, it was not long before fans were clamoring for a full-fledged Saba project. Saba would deliver his highly-awaited debut album Bucket List Project in 2017 much to the delight of fans and critics alike. The project would showcase the varied artistry of Saba as a rapper, which he would further expand upon in his sophomore effort, 2018’s CARE FOR ME.
ODIE’s debut album Analogue may have only been released just this year, but it was such a brilliant debut that we cannot help but recommend catching ODIE live. Born to Nigerian parents, the Toronto artist has spent the better part of the last four years cultivating and refining his sound. The result was a striking debut of a soulful new voice in hip-hop and R&B. Yet his sound is so much more than that. At times delving into the world of alternative rock and Afro-Gospel with a clear grasp of past musical traditions and a vision for the future, ODIE’s sound is all his own.
Saweetie is having one hell of a 2018. From collaborating with Kehlani and G-Eazy to releasing a viral hit with “ICY GRL,” the California native is quickly becoming a pivotal fixture in the female rap game. With a style that pays due reverence to the hip-hop scene of the ‘90s and a charismatic flair that extends past her music, Saweetie is an artist bound to make a lasting impact. Her debut album High Maintenance served as a solid nine-track introduction to the rapper’s world that blended the best of the past with forward-thinking production. If there is one thing we can say with complete certainty about Saweetie’s upcoming set, is that it will go off.