Coachella has trouble making up its mind on committing to the rap scene certain years. Last year featured Jean Grae, Immortal Technique, Black Star, Roots Manuva, the Perceptionists, and MF Doom. This year … well, it’s a bit sparser. Read on to see the few emcees who could be part of your festival life, as well as the some of the more soul- and world-beat-laden acts who can lift your spirits. ~Eric Solomon
Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley: You can’t front on musical heredity, unless you’re talking about Sean Lennon (unnecessary cheap shot!). Damian Marley balances politics and lovemaking on his new reggae classic, Welcome to Jamrock, and will bring a nice change of pace from the hip-hop and rock stylee that surrounds him.
Atmosphere: It’s hard to say if the daytime festival venue will draw the same sort of fawning, hipster fans that sometime frequent Atmosphere shows, so you might do well to catch Slug’s confessional (don’t call it emo!) hip-hop outside of a dank club setting, if only as a sociological viewing session.
Common: Common enjoyed being a bohemian experimentalist, but returned to his roots, hooked up with the self-anointed one Kanye West, and struck back with 2005’s Be. With a lifetime supply of hip-hop cred garnered from writing “I Used to Love H.E.R.” Common could drop a folk album with Beck and still be true to the streets.
Lyrics Born: With a flow like something an eccentric dragon might conjure, Lyrics Born broke free from the shadow of the Quannum crew with Later that Day, the rare hip-hop album not made by the Beastie Boys that got play on rock radio stations.
Platinum Pied Pipers: With roots in Slum Village (and guest production from J Dilla), not to mention being jocked mercilessly by Questlove, these guys had a lot to deliver and put out a seamless blend of hip-hop and (neo-)soul that nearly stood up to the hype. Hopefully some live instrumentation will make this a sumptuous exercise in music on the polo field.
Gnarls Barkley: In case you weren’t tired of hip-hop fusion projects or Danger Mouse and can’t get enough of the single “Crazy” that’s blowing up the U.K. music charts, you can catch Cee-Lo Green and the rodential beat-maker bringing their funk to Cali. Danger might be the producer du jour, but Cee-Lo has been putting it down for days, from his time with Outkast and Goodie Mob to his more recent ambitious solo projects, with a voice that sounds like Sadat X‘s lifted on high by the angels.
Digable Planets: Don’t call it a comeback! Actually, call it a comeback; they’ve been back for years. Relive the heady days of the early ’90s and go back to a time when the Planets took Tribe’s jazz stylings and ran with them, trying on bebop hipsterism and blaxploitation funk in equal measure with their two albums.
Los Amigos Invisibles: The tracks are ultra-sexy, funk and acid jazz trippy, and sung in Spanish and Portuguese. You may want to wear earplugs, lest the music make you more hip than your body can physically stand.
Murs featuring 9th Wonder: They form the more obscure fused hip-hop duo of the festival. Murs labors in semi-obscurity in the Living Legends crew (when he’s not dedicating albums to random actresses with Slug from Atmosphere), and 9th Wonder … well, if you haven’t heard his production for Little Brother and countless other cats, where the hell have you been? Certainly the sleeper hip-hop act of the festival.
Seu Jorge: If you congregate near a water cooler, a Wes Andersen fan, a campfire, or an Internet music forum, you’ve heard the tale of the man who covered David Bowie … in Portuguese. With any luck, Jorge won’t even sing those tracks, just out of spite or capriciousness, and will bless the crowd with talent to spare from Brazil.
Discuss this feature at The Prefix Message Board