Cardi B | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
A blazing Cardi B rocks Made In America, alongside stellar sets by Pink Sweat$, Rosalia, Anderson .Paak and more
Opening day of Jay-Z’s annual Benjamin Franklin Parkway throwdown felt under-attended compared to recent years, but there was plenty of heat coming offstage all the same, from an impressive early afternoon performance by Philly soul singer Pink Sweat$ all the way through a blistering sprint of a closing set by Bronx rapper Cardi B.
The Freedom Stage was alight at midday care of Santa Monica house DJ Elephante, while Maryland MC IDK was rough and raucous on the Tidal Stage. UK singer-songwriter Jorja Smith was effortlessly cool in her Liberty Stage performance, and kept fans on their toes, delivering downbeat R&B tracks as compellingly as uptempo funk.
Speaking of funk, oh my goodness Anderson .Paak. Reducing the California multi hyphenate to a single genre is unfair, of course, but the party energy of his Rocky Stage performance could not be denied. Cheeky Andy jumped back and forth between the drumkit to the lip of the stage, dancing with his bandmates The Free Nationals amid plumes of smoke, bouncing to the iconic bop “Come Down” and the slick and slinky “Tints.” He won over folks clamoring to grab a spot for Juice WRLD and played to his devotees alike. Haven’t seen him yet? Fix that immediately.
After a quick dip over to the Freedom Stage for some gangsta groove from Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, we took in the second off-the-charts set of the day: the Philadelphia debut from Barcelona flamenco / pop sensation Rosalía. Surrounded by a team of kinetic backing dancers, the way she occupied the stage recalled previous MIA stars Janelle Monae and Beyonce; given the synth heavy bounce of the first half of the set, those pop ambitions came through in the music as well. But Rosalía gave equal airing to the nuanced side of her catalog — the dreamlike “Di Mi Nombre,” the subtle handclap-driven “Malamente” — as well as moments where the band dialed way back and it was just her soaring voice in the speakers for lengthy stretches of time. Depending on what appeals to you about Rosalía, this portion of the set may have been tedious, but for those who hung with it, it was powerful as well. Hoping she returns for a solo headlining gig in the not-too-distant future.
Matching the dynamism of Rosalía would have been a tall order for anybody, but Juice WRLD fared particularly poorly in her wake. The Chicago rapper / singer moves in step with Post Malone, dealing in trippy cookie-cutter trap tunes about drugs, ill fated love, and other emotional hangups. His perspective is raw and uninhibited, and gets a devoted reaction from fans who clearly know from whence he speaks. The problem? The energy is sluggish, there’s little variety, and Juice seems not quite comfortable on such a large platform. Between this and a DJ set from Kaskade that had its moments — drops of Snap’s “I Got the Power,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” and Billie Eilish’s “What Do You Want From Me” — but mostly dragged, the momentum of the day ground down.
Cardi B lifted day one out of its doldrums in an all-too-short 45-minute closing set on the Rocky Stage. She tore across her catalog, playing 30 seconds to a minute of some songs before blowing ahead to the next. The objective seemed to be cramming as much of her music into her stage time as possible, from her guest verses on Bruno Mars’ “Finesse” and Migos’ “MotorSport” to her own burners like “Bartier Cardi” and “Be Careful.” She twice mentioned issues with asthma and needing her inhaler, which may have been a joke — she certainly had no problem pulling off incredibly athletic dance moves with her squad, or shimmying up the stage rigging to get a view to the back of the audience — but it may have explained the rushed pace as well. Whatever the case, her performance brought down the house, even if it left its occupants wanting more. Come back soon, Cardi.
Check out photos from Day One of Made In America below, and keep tabs on our Instagram @wxpnfm for our live updates from day two.