Special guests at Coachella are about as ho-hum as over-priced beer at this point. It's just something you're bound to expect when you set foot on the polo fields. Coachella goers are spoiled like that. But how rare is it that on a Saturday night , which sadly could've been a slow one for plenty of people, turned out awesome because of the artists we saw who WEREN'T on the bill?
Traipsing around the festival ground, it seemed many of the artists were locked into a game of "Guess Who I Brought?" starting with Diddy's cameo with Guy Gerber at the Yuma Tent about an hour before sundown. Okay, we know, the two have that 11:11 album together, so it's not that crazy that the king of Bad Boy would show up. But for Diddy (or is it Puffy again? P. Diddy? Who can keep up?) to humble himself enough to pop up on a small stage like the Yuma was nice to see, even if you secretly want him to stay the hell away from EDM.
Another one we might've expected, was Beyonce showing up to support her baby sister Solange at the Outdoor Theater. Yeah it was crazy to see Bey of course–all it took to nearly outshine her sister's entire performance was a couple of synchronized dance moves during "Losing You." But one thing that made it ever cooler to us and plenty of other people…it meant that Jay Z was definitely lurking around backstage. And there's no way he was gonna let wifey get all the surprise guest glory.
Our Nancy Drew suspicions were right on the money. We're sure those who stayed until the wee hours to see Nas perform cuts from seminal album "Illmatic" were quite popular on social media with all their Hova hash tagging.
And Pharrell. Fucking Pharrell. Who did he NOT bring on stage with him last night? Nelly, Busta Rhymes, Tyler the Creator, Diplo, Diddy, Gwen Stefani…at one point we were pretty sure he might have had Prince stashed underneath his big brown Arby's hat. Given the wiz producer's uncanny ability to make a fan out of anyone with his polished, star-studded disco rap, it was probably the craziest set we saw all night–and it had almost nothing to do with his personal performance, which felt a little lackluster. He basically said as much as he was complaining about the Coachella dust in his lungs. We'll see how he does next week.
But ya know what? Forget all that. The best cameo we saw last night wasn't on a big stage, with a big artist out front. Seeing GZA from three feet away at the Hieneken House at 8:30 p.m.–that was where you needed to be on Saturday. Most press folks got the notification he was headlining the new indoor lounge area 15 minutes before he took the stage. Hardly anybody had a clue he'd be following LA beat scene royalty Gas Lamp Killer and Thundercat, who gave some rad performances on their own. But there he was, The Genius–killing it Shoalin style for a 30-minute set that drawing heavily from Liquid Swords. And of course, he had to go ahead and drop a few verses of "Shimmy Shimmy Ya," an obligatory ode to Ol' Dirty Bastard that felt just right–considering we all felt like dirty bastards any way at that point.
Aided by Wu-Tang affiliate Prodigal Sunn, GZA dropped his verses with ridiculous clarity and power that rivaled any time we've ever seen him at Detroit Bar or The Observatory. Most of the crowd that was there when he started–bros in flip flops–were not even ready to be blessed by his presence. "Who is this? I just came in here to get a Heineken?" we heard from one audience member. "Is this the Gizzle?" Yeah dude, the Gizzle. Go back to drinking your $9 beer now, please.