Coachella has always highlighted a tradition of artists playing with special surprise guests. In 2010, Jay Z caused a disturbance in the force when he brought out Beyoncé for his headlining set; Phoenix, meanwhile, set the Twittersphere afire when – after rumors persisted that Daft Punk would appear onstage with the band at last year’s Coachella – they brought out R. Kelly (!) instead. But on day two of Coachella 2014, Pharrell’s headlining set on the Outdoor stage might’ve set a festival record for its plethora of boldfaced cameos.
Just that Pharrell was appearing at all at Coachella was enough for the pop-culture grist mill. Of course, there were rumors that Daft Punk would appear with Skateboard P. – and Pharrell did tantalize such speculation by opening his set with a Daft Punk song he sang off Random Access Memories, “Lose Yourself to Dance” – kicking off to one of the largest, most enthusiastic crowds the event had seen all weekend with a choreography heavy, multimedia show thick with hits. Ramping up Daft Punk hopes further was the fact that Pharrell’s next-to-last number was “Get Lucky” – albeit sans the participation of French robots. But Pharrell made up for Daft Punk’s absence with the sheer quantity of celebs he got onstage to perform – or, in the case of Diddy, he allowed to just made his blingtastic vibe felt.
Pharrell’s set truly proved the height of sonic namedropping, with the deluge of hip-hop royalty launching just a few songs in. First Nelly appeared to kick up some superstardust rap on his 2002 hit “Hot in Herre” that Pharrell produced as part of hitmaking duo the Neptunes. Next up was a kinetic Busta Rhymes, who tore up the stage with his performance of another Neptunes joint, “Pass the Courvoisier.” That was followed by a rebellious performance of “Lapdance” from Pharrell’s group N.E.R.D., enhanced by a suitably bugged-out turn by Odd Future mastermind Tyler, the Creator. But when Snoop Dogg showed up to spit his two smash collaborations with Pharrell, “Beautiful” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” everything truly went to a higher level (see what we did there?) and the crowd was chanting along to every word.
He brought out Diplo for a version of Major Lazer’s “Aerosol Can,” then Gwen Stefani reprised “Hollaback Girl” to a mass sing-along. Still, even in this edgy crowd, Pharrell still came off as the biggest star of our moment: he performed his part of “Blurred Lines” without Robin Thicke, and then launched into the title track off his new album Girl. Next up was “Get Lucky” before he climaxed with “Happy” – which has proven to be Pharrell’s most successful solo single to date.
Of course, this being Coachella and hip-hop, someone had to try to top Pharrell – and it happened during the next set, on the same exact stage. Not only did Nas play nearly all of his classic 1994 debut Illmatic, he brought none other than his former rival, Jay Z, to trade rhymes on the hip-hop classic “Dead Presidents.” And since Jay was in the house (or on the field), it only made sense Beyoncé was at the fest, too – she showed up onstage with her sister Solange to help out on “Losing You.”