The Wu-Tang Clan performs during the 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts… (Bethany Mollenkof / Los…)
"How many of y’all in here love real hip-hop?,” Raekwon asked during the Wu-Tang Clan’s performance at Coachella on Sunday night.
“No disrespect to none of y'all," he continued. "But we came to steal this … tonight."
Raekwon’s statements probably shouldn't be taken as a diss toward the smattering of rap acts on this year’s bill, but considering that previous festivals have featured such game-changing hip-hop stalwarts as Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z and Kanye West, a reunited Wu-Tang was essential viewing for purists frustrated with the scarcity of the genre.
FULL COVERAGE: Coachella 2013
Backed by a full orchestra, hip-hop’s greatest posse was in rare form as they breezed through more than an hour of hits from "Enter the 36 Chambers" and some of the various members' solo works. Oh, and did we mention everyone showed up and looked like they got along?
Despite Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and Red Hot Chili Peppers performing on the main stage during their set, the Clan buckled down and delivered a surprisingly focused set that also featured a moving tribute to Ol' Dirty Bastard -- and no, he wasn’t beamed onstage with a "hologram."
As the vicious Indio winds whipped sand and dust through festival-goers' faces, songs such as "Protect Ya Neck" and "Bring Da Ruckus" were powered with a new urgency. And there’s nothing like the sheer revelry of "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta F' Wit" laced with the delicate strings from violinists.
Wu-Tang wasn't the only reunited hip-hop collective taking to the Outdoor Stage. Friday night saw the underground L.A. collective Jurassic 5 perform for the first time in seven years. Coachella has built its reputation on offering these huge moments, and with luck, OutKast is somewhere out there taking note.
Jurassic 5, much like Wu-Tang, provided a critical reminder of how durable hip-hop can be when done correctly, and offered an appreciated reprieve from the club rap that’s become a mainstay on today’s radio dials.
Dancing and sweating to the tawdry strip club anthems of 2 Chainz’s set in the Mojave tent on Saturday was fun, sure, but it doesn’t move your body the way Jurassic 5's basement party grooves can, a fact that was backed up the crowd's unanimous two-step to "Concrete Schoolyard" "Improvise" and "Quality Control."
It felt good -- necessary, in fact -- to have the weekend bookended by authentic hip-hop that was a reminder of what made you fall in love with the genre. The clever wordplay, the feel-good moments, the party, the hard-knocking beats, the soul samples.
To borrow a line from Raekwon for the other styles of music on display this past weekend, "No disrespect to none of y'all."