When Jhene Aiko sang the opening lines of her Drake collaboration “From Time” during her set Sunday night at Coachella in Indio, the crowd -- singing the bone-chilling lyrics back to her -- knew what was coming next.
The Gobi tent was already lighted up by hundreds of smartphones when Drake emerged onstage. The deafening screams were likely heard across the festival grounds. He eased into his verse, gliding across the stage slowly to give everyone (OK, mainly the women) a lasting image.
Drake’s surprise appearance during Aiko’s set -- she also brought out Childish Gambino -- capped a weekend of performances from a who’s-who of rap not featured on the bill.
Electronic music might have dominated the lineup of 2014’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, but rap won the buzz this year.
Everyone from new school hitmakers (Future) to veterans (Busta Rhymes, Nelly, E-40) to larger-than-life icons (Jay Z, Snoop, Diddy) popped up as surprise guests.
The trippy, rock-edged atmospheric vibe of Kid Cudi was a big hit on the main stage Saturday, with the Cleveland emcee feeding heavily off of the energy of the crowd.
Newcomers like ASAP Ferg and Chance the Rapper pleased fans with their respective showcases. Chance got plenty of post-show ink for bringing out pop star Justin Bieber during his Sunday set, and Ferg ceded some of Friday’s stage time to his buddy ASAP Rocky, who debuted a new song.
The major draw was two historic rap moments: the return of OutKast, performing together for the first time in seven years, and Nas marking the 20th anniversary of his game-changing debut, “Illmatic.”
OutKast kept the guest list tiny and confined to its Southern roots. The Atlanta duo made room for funky soul singers Janelle Monáe and Sleepy Brown, but also trotted out Future for a multi-song medley/infomercial for his new album.
On Sunday, rap fans were still buzzing about Nas’ late night set, where the prolific rapper brought out rival-turned-friend Jay Z for a winning two-song medley.
Considering the heavyweights have barely shared the same stage over the last two decades, it was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that fans will be recounting all week.
Before Nas hit the stage, Pharrell flexed his muscle during his set, bringing out Nelly, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes and Diddy during a hits-filled -- and dust blown -- set.
Williams pulled a similar surprise during his recent NBA halftime gig, but Gwen Stefani popping up for her indelible smash “Hollaback Girl” (which perfectly mashed together chunky old school hip-hop and dance beats) was one of the weekend’s best-kept secrets -- next to Beyoncé.
Hip-hop even traveled outside of acts typically associated with the genre.
Mary J. Blige, who has sung alongside every living rapper that matters and more than lives up to her moniker “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul,” dropped in to Disclosure’s set to bring some soul swagger to the remix of its dance jam “F for You.”
Bastille, the British alt-rock band known for the hit “Pompeii,” tapped blog darling Angel Haze for a surprise.
And while electronic stalwarts like Martin Garrix and Zedd led late-night ravers to ecstasy under the Sahara tent Friday, Girl Talk led a pounding set of choppy beats and frenetic energy.
The mash-up savant had some help too, packing Too Short, Juicy J, E-40 and Busta Rhymes into his set.
And that was just Weekend 1.