Coachella, like the Grammys, thrives in part on its ability to create a ‘Coachella moment,’ one that usually features an odd pairing of artists coming together for a once in a lifetime performance. It’s why Madonna emerged from the shadows during Drake’s set last year for a steamy (read: gross) intergenerational medley of erotic jams, or why Dr. Dre’s set in 2012 was graced with the now-infamous vision of a Tupac hologram.
Armed with this knowledge, I waited patiently on Sunday evening during Kendrick Lamar’s set for a ‘Coachella moment’ I was sure was bound to happen. It involved the previous night’s headliner—the one and only Lady Gaga—and considering her relative proximity to the same stage within a span of 24 hours, I felt a collaboration between the rap and pop titans was imminent.
Alas, it did not come to pass, though perhaps this weekend’s second round will prove otherwise. But why was I expecting a Kendrick/Gaga duet in the first place? Because, dear reader, it has already happened.
Long ago, in the golden Obama-days of 2012, a rapper named Kendrick Lamar was spending every waking moment crafting his sophomore album, a record that he titled Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. He had a huge fan in the form of Lady Gaga, then reaching the apex of her international superstardom riding the wave of her recent release Born This Way, so the two hunkered into the studio for a track then called “Partynauseous.” But you might know it better by its finished name: “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.”
At this stage in her career, Gaga was no stranger to dipping her theatrical toes into the world of hip-hop. She had two wildly successful Beyoncé collaborations under her belt (the first, “Video Phone,” is very much a rap track) in addition to a guest spot on DC rapper Wale’s breakout single “Chillin.” So it seemed only natural that she would reach out to a rapper on the come-up. A feature credit from Lady Gaga in 2012 was just about the biggest publicity one could hope for.
News first broke of “Partynauseous” via Lady Gaga’s Twitter, wherein it was widely publicized as being a new Gaga single featuring Lamar on rapping duties. She then clarified that it would indeed be for Lamar’s album and it would arrive shortly.
As we all know, music industry dates are fickle, and this did not come to pass. Gaga took to Twitter to apologize, and the fate of the song was up in the air. It was around this time that the song was renamed “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” and the world waited with bated breath to see what would come to pass.
The result was a crushing blow to the Little Monsters who had waited all summer for their Mother’s promised musical offering. Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City was released on October 22, 2012, and Gaga was no where in sight, not even as a writing credit. Few clear answers were given, though Lamar and his production team spoke briefly on this flubbed collaboration to Complex, chalking most of it up to to poor timing and label issues.
Speaking of their planned duet, Lamar said “[Lady GaGa was going to be on the song]. We had a date, but we had to meet the deadline for the pre-order date. That’s just the business side coming through and messing things up. But you know it’s God’s plan. I’m not really too tight about it because I know we have something special.”
Producer MixedbyAli meanwhile, had this to say: “We were in Chicago with Lady Gaga in the studio when we played the song for her. She wanted to hop on it but I think she did it somewhere in Europe and sent us the files. They were going back and forth on the song and bouncing around different concepts about what they could do with the record. We actually had a record done but there were timing issues with the album and it didn’t make the cut-off date.”
Regardless of what went wrong, Gaga was not having it. She had her Little Monsters breathing down her neck, and as anyone who has taken a quick scroll through a Gaga comments section knows, they are not a group who take being screwed over lightly. So she took matters into her own claws and dropped the demo. Thankfully, it is still online:
Only the most dismissive of rap purists would find anything objectionable in the OG version of the song. Gaga, unsurprisingly, delivers a bravura performance of the hook and chorus, and her presence on the track makes for a delightful counterpoint to Kendrick’s bars. The finished album version ended up replacing her vocals with a pitch-shifted Kendrick and backing from Anna Wise, a singer featured on multiple Good Kid tracks. Preferring one version over the other is a matter of personal taste, but no one could possibly argue there is anything particularly wrong in the Gaga duet.
Even so, Kendrick spoke shortly afterward of his shock that Gaga released their version of the song. “I didn’t even know she was gonna put that out,” he told XXL, “That was a surprise. I thought she was gonna hold that in the can. I was cool with it. It showed people we wasn’t playin’ with it; we was actually in the studio vibing out when we recorded. For her to put it out even undone, that says a lot. That says she’s confident not only about her work, but my work.”
The year is now 2017, and it seems unlikely we are ever to see a meeting of the minds between the two musical juggernauts ever again. Considering one of them is making earth-shattering, politically incisive, revolutionary hip-hop and the other recently released a concept album about wearing a pink cowboy hat, you could say they are in different artistic places. That said, it is not too late for some Coachella magic to take place. Here’s hoping we see a resurrection of this long-forgotten gem. But if not, it will live on in our hearts and low-quality Youtube rips forever.
Read our review of Kendrick Lamar’s latest opus ‘DAMN.’ right here.
- Cover Images: Chris Buck for Mass Appeal / Vanity Fair