Who didn’t Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg trot out to close the Coachella Festival on Sunday night? The full retinue was a veritable Hip Hop Hall of Fame: 50 Cent, Eminem, Wiz Khalifa, Kendrick Lamar, Kurupt, Warren G, Nate Dogg (via montage tribute), a two-story LED projection of Frank Sinatra, and a Tupac Shakur hologram. All that was missing was gin and juice gratis for every audience member.
Of course, the West has never been shy to throw up the “W” and the Dogg and Doc delivered a bell-ringing performance to please the hometown crowd. Backed by a full band, the set list was both party-to-go and paean to the last two decades of gangsta rap. After all, when Andre Young dropped The Chronic 20 years ago, the genre retained its marine blue menace and instilled fear into the hearts of sweater-clad suburban parents. Today, Dr. Dre is a gangsta eminence grise and savvy headphone entrepreneur. Meanwhile his one-time sidekick Snoop Dogg has starred in movies, television shows, and leased his star wattage to more products than Ron Popeil.
So it goes without saying that no set all weekend had hopes of inspiring more group sing-a-longs than Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Few can match the ardor of Radiohead acolytes, but it’s impossible to compete with the semi-automatic power of hooks of “Gin and Juice,” “Nuthin’ But a G Thang,” “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None,)” “In Da Club,” “Forgot About Dre,” “California Love” or “Still D.R.E.” By now, multiple generations have been weaned on Dre’s odes to women, weed, and weather. In fact, that’s the hook to the new single performed by Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre’s latest protégé. Pant styles may have gone from baggy to skinny to somewhere in between, but climate and crop preferences are constant. So whenever any of the aforementioned cuts blared from the massive main stage speakers, an echo of undulating revelers roared their approval.
Though the set only lasted one hour—without encore—Dre and Snoop wield an arsenal so deep that they could still play an entirely different set next weekend. But both men have never been the type to leave clips in the chamber, so they trotted out all the heavy hitters. Dressed in a tight black shirt, the muscle-knotted Doctor looked more comfortable in the limelight than he has in a long time, smiling and making gun gestures to the cameras. Snoop blended his LBC roots with the style of Bootsy Collins and the smoking habits of Bob Marley. Blazing a blunt almost the entire show, the Melba Toast-thin rapper snapped with rare vintage, running through an abridged greatest-hits set that included “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” “I Wanna Rock,” and “Young, Wild, & Free.” The latter smash paired Snoop with Khalifa, who exhibited an easy chemistry with his spiritual inspiration as they passed a Lincoln Log-sized spliff back and forth.
The performance tacitly told the story of the last 20-plus years of Dre’s legendary career, from his first collaboration with Snoop (1992’s “Deep Cover”) to his multi-platinum aegis as Eminem’s label boss. The appearance of Slim Shady offered a particularly galvanic moment, especially when he delivered lightning-quick renditions of “Forgot About Dre” and “Till I Collapse.” It was the only thing capable of stealing the thunder from the previous on-stage guest, 50 Cent, who briefly turned the polo field into pandemonium with “P.I.M.P.”
Yet the most memorable and bizarre moment arrived when Dre and Snoop trotted out a hologram of 2Pac that looked like it had been a group collaboration between the makers of the California Raisins and Captain Eo. Snoop and the hologram ran through the classic “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted,” before the 2Pac doppelganger brought the house down with “Hail Mary.” Then it dissolved saint-like into spears of yellow light. In its own way, it made sense. With more top 40 hits than the other Coachella performers combined, conjuring the dead may have been the only thing left that Dre and Snoop. et. al. have yet to accomplish. And judging from the success of Sunday night’s show, it’s inevitable that the Notorious B.I.G. hologram is already being commissioned as you read this. –Jeff Weiss