A lot of unsigned artists draw inspiration from going to Coachella. Though they obviously come to enjoy it as a fan, it's also a place for them to peer into the future of what's possible when they finally get their shot to blow up. Few things stoke dreams of rap stardom like watching Kendrick Lamar light up a packed stage on a warm Sunday night in Indio with his image blazing on giant, wrap around mega screens as a 100,000 people lose their minds. In the biggest festival crowd of the west coast, there's no shortage of aspiring emcees with emotional ties to the festival. Out on the field we found a small group of local rappers and musicians working at the festival this year who say they also have the responsibility of making Coachella shine—by setting it up and tearing it down after people leave.
As members of the Resource Ops team, this crew are in charge of keeping the grounds clean by setting up waste barrels and transporting piles of used plastic, recycling and other resources across the polo field in large cabotas (think military style golf carts) and the dumping bins outside the festival grounds. Together with the rest of the Coachella maintenance crew, the Resource Ops team helps to recycle of over 10,000 pounds of plastic and cardboard per day at Coachella. They deliver supplies to vendors and other stage workers and live on site during both weekends of the festival in a village of remodeled, air conditioned metal shipping containers outfitted with bunk beds. Unlike their fledgeling rap careers, success at Coachella means working hard without being seen.
“We’re the oil in the motor," says Hunter Beard, an Arkansas native who's been rapping in LA for about 10 years. "We do everything from setting up different things throughout the festival, maintaining the outside grounds.”
After being recruited for a spot on the Resource Ops team two years ago to work Coachella, Beard—who has performed at spots like the Whiskey, The Viper Room and the Troubadour—also recruited a handful of local musicians, most of whom are on his label Lion Pride Music Group, to come work with him and earn $20 an hour on top of getting a free pass to the festival when they're finished each day. Every weekend, Beard says Coachella hires about 150-200 Resource Ops workers on top of a large number of other cleanup workers.
"I’d worked on different movie sets before but as far as working festivals, my first one was Desert Trip," says rapper Terrell Carr. "This is my first Coachella, it’s been amazing. I’ve made a bond, with the workers here. We work the festival during the day and get to wild out at night, meet great people and network."
Beard's Lion Pride Co-CEO and fellow Arkansas-bred rapper Keddy Mac was one of the first emcees to be recruited to work with him. He says he's blessed to get to see a major production like Coachella from the inside that most artists never get to see.
"It's been a blessing to be here with my brothers and work out here everyday. You really see how much work goes into an event like this and we're a big part of that."
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During the day, he and crew mates like Lion Pride DJ Jmz Dean Long Beach drummer Chris Walker dart through the campgrounds either on foot on driving the cabotas, making sure the camp and car lots stay well maintained. Walker, who says he'd never been to Coachella until joining Resource Ops last year to work during Coachella and Desert Trip, says the job is actually a lot cooler than he expected.
"At first I thought this might be a job that most festival goers wouldn't necessarily appreciate what we do," Walker says. "Then I started doing it and all the campers are like really cool with us and what we do. It's actually been a good way to meet friends at the festival," he says.
Obviously that doesn't change the fact that the job involves loads of manual labor in the desert heat which reached up to about high 80s over the weekend and will be broiling well over 100 degrees during Weekend 2.
“I brought on seven people the first year I worked here," Beard says. "Some people can’t hang, some people the heat’s too much, for some people living on site is too much. This is a very high paced, fast energy, detail oriented people." But working at an event like this only helps inspire Beard and his crew to hustle when it comes to their own careers. "Watching some of these major rappers like Kendrick and Future on stage I look at that and say that's gonna be us some day."