Eminem upstaged by mentor Dr. Dre during uneven Coachella set

Lyndsey Parker

Coachella day two brought a new catchphrase: #Beychella. Day three brought another one: #BeyonceHangover. Beyoncé, the queen bee of the California desert, had pretty much ruined Coachella for everyone else, setting the bar so high with her history-making mainstage set Saturday that a performance by any headliner the next day was bound to feel like a comedown. Sunday festival closer Eminem did his best, and he had his moments, but much of the time he seemed to struggle for relevance.

Interestingly, the most explosive segment of Eminem’s set came when he ceded the stage to his mentor, Dr. Dre. (He introduced Dre via the famous line in “The Real Slim Shady”: “Dre’s dead, he’s locked in my basement!”) The two performed “Still D.R.E.,” “Medicine Man,” “Forgot About Dre,” “Nothing but a G Thang” (sans Snoop Dogg, which was odd, since Snoop had been around earlier in the weekend to join Jamiroquai onstage), and “California Love” (sans the infamous Tupac Shakur hologram that appeared with Dre at Coachella 2012).

Another high point was when Eminem’s onetime protégé 50 Cent came out for “Patiently Waiting,” “I Get Money,” and the perennial party starter “In Da Club.” But anyone expecting an all-star revue — as in Dre’s Coachella set six years ago — was probably disappointed. Despite being spotted in the desert this weekend, Rihanna was a no-show on “The Monster” and “Love the Way You Lie”; her vocals were instead respectively handled by those songs’ co-writers, Bebe Rexha and Skylar Grey. Grey also took on Dido’s lines in “Stan” and Beyoncé’s vocal parts in last year’s Revival track “Walk on Water,” while a track of Ed Sheeran’s canned vocals played during Revival’s “River.” Considering how many other collaborators Eminem has had over the years (P!nk, Jay-Z, Sia, Nicki Minaj, Gwen Stefani, Lil’ Wayne, Kendrick Lamar, Busta Rhymes, even Elton John), the of lack star power during his concert was surprising.

Eminem and 50 Cent perform at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

But the low point of the show came when Eminem and his hype man Mr. Porter read “Mean Tweets” in a segment introduced virtually by Jimmy Kimmel. Tweets like “No one’s been paying attention to you since 2003” and “Remember when Eminem was actually cool?” hit a little too close to home — and it didn’t help that Eminem jokingly agreed with the trolls’ remarks. When he asked the audience if he could “take you back to a time when I was actually cool” (followed by the early hits “My Name Is” and “The Real Slim Shady”), the skit fell flat, and it felt like the joke was on him.

There were, however, some flashes of the ferocity that marked Eminem’s amazing freestyle comeback at the BET Hip-Hop Awards last year. Eminem didn’t get political at Coachella (other than playing 2002’s “White America”), but he did get personal, introducing “Not Afraid” with an announcement that he is 10 years sober this week. And his finale of the Oscar-winning “Lose Yourself” from 8 Mile sounded as fiery and intense as ever. (Fun side note: Eminem had a pop-up restaurant, the brilliantly titled Mom’s Spaghetti, on the festival grounds this weekend.) These were the moments when nobody forgot about Em.

On the other end of the special-guest spectrum, earlier in the day a 35-minute set by a very pregnant Cardi B  featured no fewer than five superstar cameos: Chance the Rapper (for “Best Life”), 21 Savage (“Bartier Cardi”), YG (“She Bad”), Kehlani (“Ring”), and G-Eazy (“No Limit”). “I’m out of breath, you know, I’m pregnant. I’ma get my friends to help me out!” she said.

In an appearance on “The Ellen Show,” Cardi B told host Ellen DeGeneres there was a secret message to her Coachella performance about her pregnancy.

And not all the fun happened on the actual Empire Polo Field. Coachella weekend always offers a slew of celebrity-studded, Instagram-worthy parties, but the one party that actually focused on music was the one hosted by Los Angeles alt-rock radio station KROQ, where acts like Portugal. The Man, Vance Joy, and Bleachers performed. The magical semi-stripped poolside set by glam-pop songman BØRNS was the perfect pre-gaming way to spend Coachella’s final afternoon.

Coachella will stage a second run next weekend, April 20-22, at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, Calif.

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