The 2023 Coachella lineup has been announced and among some truly historical moments — the lineup features both the first K-pop girl group and Latin music headliners, cementing both genres’ rising prominence in the American pop cultural landscape — one question hangs over everything else: Where are all the rap artists?
To be certain, rap has been a fixture at the festival, even though it started out as a rock-centric event, for the past few years. I’ve written about it a few times, including last year, when the festival returned after a two-year hiatus caused by COVID-19. Coachella added its first rap headliner with Jay-Z in 2010, and since then, Outkast, Eminem, Drake, Dr. Dre with Snoop Dogg, and Outkast have all delivered iconic moments (Travis Scott, billed to perform in 2020, was removed from the 2022 lineup when the event returned in the wake of his disastrous Astroworld Festival in 2021).
In 2022 alone, rap music dominated the lineup, from stars like Doja Cat, Lil Baby, and Megan Thee Stallion in the second line, to up-and-coming acts City Girls, Denzel Curry, JID, and Vince Staples peppered throughout the three biggest stages. This year, hip-hop barely cracked the second line, limited to a handful of big-name acts like A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie (whose name was shortened for space), Pusha T, and hitmaker Metro Boomin. Hip-hop is technically still the most popular genre in the world, so what gives?
However, scratching the surface might actually present one of the more interesting opportunities for some lesser-known names to climb the marquees of other festivals throughout the year and gain the sort of recognition that can see their tour venue caps jump up a level if they play their cards right. For one thing, there are the underground and indie favorites, many of whom Uproxx has covered pretty extensively as they built a buzz just below radar level. Those would be your AG Clubs, IDKs, and Tobe Nwigwes, the artists whose fans won’t shut up about them, even as they have yet to truly gain a toehold on the pop charts.
It looks like Noname is making her return to the Coachella stage after threatening retirement, while Doechii, GloRilla, Flo Milli, and Latto’s presences are making this year’s hip-hop offerings at Coachella something a women’s empowerment forum — something the rap scene sorely needs after the latter half of 2022 devolved into a maelstrom of counterproductive bickering among the top names.
Meanwhile, with producers like Kaytranada and Metro Boomin near the top of the bill, surprises could abound. Metro Boomin is almost certain to bring along the usual assortment of collaborators, the possibilities of which range from Atlanta trap mainstays like 21 Savage and the surviving Migos members to a potential impromptu ASAP Rocky sub-headlining set fueled by their extensive collaboration on Don’t Be Dumb. Kaytranada’s work with everyone from Anderson .Paak to IDK to Phonte Coleman to his own brother Louie Phelps could see him joined on stage by a who’s-who of some of rap’s most respected. Kenny Beats is up there too, opening the doors for Rico Nasty, Zack Fox, and many, many more to shock fans with unannounced cameos.
Even the Gorillaz, whose work has defied categorization for nearly 20 years, has a Rolodex of rappers ranging from the newly liberated De La Soul and other ’90s mainstays like Bootie Brown, Del The Funky Homosapien, Mos Def (aka Yasiin Bey), and Snoop Dogg, to British grime breakouts like Slowthai and Octavian (as well as contemporary faves Danny Brown, Little Simz, Schoolboy Q, Vince Staples, and more). So while the big names in hip-hop might well be taking a break from the desert this year, there will be just as many opportunities for discovery and the possiblity of more surprise appearances that might drop as many fans’ jaws as bars.