Coachella 2015: Run the Jewels and the art of realness

Left to right, El-P, Gangsta Boo and Killer Mike perform April 11 at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif.

Left to right, El-P, Gangsta Boo and Killer Mike perform April 11 at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif.

(Jason Kempin / Getty Images)
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Dreams really do come true at Coachella, and not just for the desert festival’s formerly punk, now wildly successful promoter Goldenvoice.

Run the Jewels’ success story came to full fruition Saturday night on the Empire Polo Grounds when the rap duo -- both of whom turn 40 this year and both receiving relatively minimal underground success over their decades-long careers before officially joining forces -- amassed one of the most devoted, grateful and supportive crowds of the evening.

FULL COVERAGE: Coachella 2015


Killer Mike and El-P hugged one another, thanked the audience profusely and busted out the occasional happy dance during a powerful set that made it evident why they were one of the more anticipated acts at the weekend festival.

They offered up their signature tag-team rapping, record scratching and lyrics that paint a collage of all that is here and now: Ferguson, media depictions of ghetto culture, Chinese sweatshops, a bedroom tale so tawdry it parodied sex-obsessed rappers while trumping them.

The packed-in audience sang along during the hourlong performance, most of it culled from the duo’s breakthrough album, 2014’s “Run the Jewels 2.”

Their self-aware, humble and poignant set stood in sharp contrast to the nearby Sahara tent, where the selfie-obsessed camped out, dancing to The Beat regardless of which name-brand EDM artist delivered it. The buzz around Run the Jewels’ set did attract casual observers as well, including a blue-haired Kylie Jenner, who brought with her the paparazzi and an air of general disinterest.

Perhaps the most refreshing thing about Run the Jewels show was the camaraderie between the two longtime friends and collaborators. Visually, they look like a buddy-cop movie: Killer Mike is huge, charismatic and imposing; El-P is small, doughy and nerdish. Together, though, they generated an enthusiasm that transferred to the mixed crowd of pristinely groomed, flower-crowned Coachella goddesses; disheveled blond men in kimonos; and tanned, shirtless dudes with prison tattoos.

Songs performed included “Blockbuster Night Part 1” and “All My Life,” with Rage Against the Machine front man Zack De La Rocha making a guest appearance on “Close Your Eyes (And Count to ...).” Other guests onstage included Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and rapper Gangsta Boo.


Run the Jewels made it clear from the beginning that receiving a prominent billing at Coachella was a victory in itself when they arrived onstage to Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” But by the set’s end, they looked genuinely floored by the overwhelming reception.

Both descended into the crowd and hugged ecstatic audience members. “This is a dream come true,” said El-P. Jenner had long left the building.

Follow @PopHiss and @lorraineali for more Coachella updates throughout the weekend