There isn't much hip-hop on Coachella's main stage this year, which marks a significant shift from 2011 and 2012, when Kanye West and then Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg closed the annual festival with blow-out Sunday-night performances. But rap fans still had plenty to watch Saturday afternoon, with back-to-back sets in the Outdoor Theater by Action Bronson and Danny Brown and a jam-packed Mojave Tent appearance by the Atlanta strip-club king 2 Chainz.
Bronson, the rotund chef-turned-MC who broke out with a series of cooking-related mixtapes, spent as much of his performance in the audience as he did onstage, bellying his way through an amped-up crowd as he delivered rhymes about food ("Ginger ale and hot sauce / Two things I live by") and his home turf of Queens. The journey came at a cost -- namely, Bronson's T-shirt, which he lost, "over there somewhere," he said while pointing -- but still provided a dose of unscripted rowdiness that's rare at this micromanaged extravaganza.
Bronson also brought a handful of surprise guests to the stage, including Riff Raff and several members of Odd Future, whose presence at Bronson's show says something about his reputation for mischief.
Detroit-based Brown wasn't as antic (or as entertaining), though his high-pitched squawk of a voice offered a welcome change of pace after Bronson's gruff bark. It also helped to make his sex-obsessed rhymes -- delivered over beats that took in harsh snare cracks as well as a chopped-up sample of Britney Spears' "Toxic" -- feel more friendly than demanding.
"I'm the black Brad Pitt," he declared in one song, and his charm bore out that boast.
No less a charmer (and perhaps even more sex-obsessed) than Brown, 2 Chainz seemed close to exhausting his audience's goodwill when he showed up in the Mojave Tent nearly 20 minutes late -- a serious no-no at Coachella. But if the overflow crowd had been booing seconds before he took the stage, it quickly changed course when 2 Chainz ripped into his verses from Kanye West's "Mercy" and "Beez in the Trap" by Nicki Minaj.
Backed by a six-piece live band, the rapper ran through a throbbing set of tunes from his "Based on a T.R.U. Story" album -- "Birthday Song," "I'm Different," "I Luv Dem Strippers" -- then took off as quickly as he'd arrived. Saturday night it'll be up to the Postal Service and Sigur Rós to top the excitement 2 Chainz brought to Coachella. They're not likely to succeed.
Follow Mikael Wood on Twitter: @mikaelwood
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