Playboi Carti
Highsnobiety / Daniel Garcia

For the 20th year, Coachella returns to the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. The back-to-back weekends will have many firsts, pulling out all the stops to maintain its reputation as the biggest music festival in the world. In the festival’s two-decade history, fans are starting to see more representation and inclusion across multiple genres, with Latin artists, K-pop, J-pop, and other acts showcasing the line-up’s diversity.

Headliners Childish Gambino, Ariana Grande, and Tame Impala offer a solid balance of headline acts. Last year, it was Beyoncé who broke our timelines with her HBCU-themed performance backed by a marching band and over 100 dancers. Unfortunately, Coachella 2019 will not feature Beyoncé’s sister Solange, who pulled out of her Saturday performance due to production delays. But in a surprise turn of events, Weekend 2 is going to feature a special Easter Sunday Service by Kanye West. It was rumored he canceled his headlining performance over a disagreement on his stage design, but it seems Coachella organizers and ‘Ye are on the same page. He’s planning to do his Sunday Service early in the morning. It’s open for Weekend 2 pass holders, and more info on that is here.

If you’re attending Coachella or watching the livestream on YouTube, you’re going to have to decide who you want to prioritize over other artists. But fear not, we have curated a guide of 18 performances you need to see between April 12-April 14 and April 19-April 21. Consider this as a starter kit for your ‘Chella adventure.

Friday

Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals

Growing up in Ventura, Anderson .Paak is all California pride. Releasing two albums (Oxnard and Ventura) within months of each other that are homages to his hometown, .Paak successfully paints wide portraits of Cali living through funk-by-way-of-rap. He’s a singer, rapper, and drummer who is high-spirited and full of energy live in concert. With his backing band The Free Nationals, .Paak’s charismatic presence truly shines as he indulges in some of his grooviest material to date.

BLACKPINK

BLACKPINK is making history as the first K-pop girl group to perform at Coachella. If that doesn’t entice you already, the Seoul-based quartet consisting of members Jennie, Rosé, Lisa, and Jisoo have had a huge 2018: their Square Up EP debuted at No. 40 on the Billboard 200 and its single “DDU-DU DDU-DU” peaked at No. 55 on the Hot 100. With 20 million subscribers on their official YouTube channel, they’re global superstars in the making with plans to release solo projects soon. Their Coachella performance will be a pivotal moment for their crossover in the States, which will be livestreamed by YouTube in Times Square in New York for the first time. It will likely gain them the mainstream exposure they deserve. Get ready to hit the “DDU-DU DDU-DU” dance in the desert.

Childish Gambino

Donald Glover has vowed to retire the name Childish Gambino after one more project, ending the chapter of an MC that has shown exceptional growth over the years. When you hear about a Childish Gambino show, there’s always a strong chance that’ll be his last. So far, Glover hasn’t hung his jersey in the rafters just yet, so fans still have plenty of opportunities after Coachella to see him live. But as Hollywood’s most omnipresent figure, Glover has used his creative platforms to send critical messages in hopes to spark change. While “This Is America” is a sign of his new direction and purpose in his music, Gambino will also pull from his psychedelic soul and funk-inspired “Awaken, My Love!” to put on an unforgettable headlining show. And of course, there’s the premiere his new movie Guava Island with Rihanna – just another reason to see Gambino close out the first night.

Ella Mai

After earning the Grammy for Best R&B Song for her summer anthem “Boo’d Up,” Ella Mai has remained a bright star in the new class of R&B. The fan reaction to “Trip” – and Jacquees feeling so inspired to remix it – shows that her popularity has barely reached its zenith. Her self-titled album has enough bops and retro feels for some alone time with your significant other or someone you just met at Coachella. Come for “Boo’d Up,” stay for the Ella Mai appreciation.

Rosalía

Rosalía Vila Tobella is a name you need to know. Why? For starters, the 25-year-old Spanish singer studied the art of flamenco, a style of folk music that originated in Andalusia, and has linked that tradition of melodramatic songs to a modernized take on R&B and pop. Rosalía is single handedly reinventing the sound, with each iteration more boundary-pushing than the last. She pours her heart and soul into her stories, creating the most stripped-down, gorgeous listening experience you can ever imagine. After a historic El Mal Querer show in Madrid, she’s hitting the road for her first North American tour which includes Coachella. Go see her for “PIENSO EN TU MIRÁ” and “MALAMENTE” and thank us later.

Tierra Whack

2019 is all about the women’s revolution in hip-hop. Tierra Whack, a Philadelphia-born MC who has been making waves just by being herself, is on track to have another breakthrough year in her career. After the praise she received from her 15-minute visual Whack World in 2018, she took her music on tour. She was everywhere – so this year, Whack is looking to have her run on the major festival circuit, performing at Coachella before hitting other biggies like Lollapalooza and Afropunk. It helps that #WhackHistoryMonth, a series of weekly singles, have all been bops, showcasing her range from captivating lyricism (“Unemployed”) to quirky pop (“Gloria”). If she’s able to create this much attention off a short album, just imagine what her debut album proper is going to sound like. Get ready for Whack World at Coachella.

Saturday

Aphex Twin

When a poster of Aphex Twin’s graphic over Coachella’s logo in Los Angeles was shared by Weirdcore, the elusive designer behind some of his visuals, on Instagram, it pretty much confirmed the return of Richard James to American shores. This marks an 11-year gap since he performed in 2008, and he’s arguably been more prolific of late, delivering exceptional beatmaking on his Collapse and Cheetah EPs. The man’s a living legend – need we say more?

Billie Eilish

No one has had a faster rise in popularity in recent memory than Billie Eilish. At just 17-years-old, she relates to post-teens and adults alike, getting her fans excited when she samples The Office on “My Strange Addiction” or when she makes fun of herself for being underage while playing to a crowd much older than her. She is an unconventional pop star with tons of influence – just look at her 17 million followers on Instagram – and becoming a bigger commercial force with over a billion streams. Her debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, scored her first No.1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, so her momentum is far from slowing down. Go rock out with her and believe the hype.

Idris Elba

You may already be an Idris Elba fan for his role in The Wire (or anything else in his enormous body of work). Although he’s made his mark in Hollywood, it’s no secret that People’s “sexiest man alive” has made strides as a producer and DJ, getting his start as a teenager tagging along with his uncle at weddings. Now, as an accomplished DJ who has done a number of prominent music festivals around the world, he’s hitting Coachella for the first time. He tells Billboard, “I’m sure most people don’t know what I play: deep, techy house. I’m just excited to have been invited to one of the world’s best and largest music festivals. It’s a real nod to the work I’ve done as a DJ.” Don’t miss a chance to see his set, and his contributions to Wiley’s “Boasty” ring off live.

J Balvin

It’s nearly impossible to turn on the radio and not hear J Balvin on a song. Whether they are his own singles – “Reggaeton” is now the No. 1 song on Latin radio across the United States – or the ones he’s featured on like Cardi B’s “I Like It” with Bad Bunny, the Colombian singer is infusing his pride and culture into American airwaves. It’s no wonder his album, Vibras – with the international anthem “Mi Gente,” has reached so many. He’s perfected the art of crossing over Latin pop and reggaeton to a universal audience, getting people to sing his lyrics in Spanish no matter what their nationality is. It’s a beautiful thing.

Kid Cudi

During Kanye West’s whirlwind of new G.O.O.D. Music releases last year, Cudder fans were excited to see him linking up with one of his musical idols for a collaborative album. Kids See Ghosts performed at Camp Flog Gnaw high above thousands of fans in a suspended glass box, building the anticipation for a Cudi solo performance on the same magnitude. Although there hasn’t been an update on his next album, Kid Cudi has been locked in the studio knocking out some “tasty” features. He’s shared snippets of songs online, looking more happy and in a better space to create. Maybe Cudi will use his return to Coachella to bless his fans with new music. Only one way to find out is to rage with Mr. Rager and his classics.

Murda Beatz

Migos have worked with a lot of producers during their rise as the hottest rap trio, but one who stands out is Murda Beatz. The Canadian producer linked up with them early on in their careers, but as he grew in popularity, so did his collabs outside of Migos, which include Drake, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, Smokepurrp, and Ski Mask the Slump God. Highsnobiety investigated why he was the most essential producer of 2018, and he told us, “I just like building really good relationships with these people and I just work with all my favorite artists. Everyone I work with I’m friends with.” Someone with a solid track record of hits will more than likely bring some of his friends to the desert.

Sunday

Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande is having a big year. When Coachella announced the 25-year-old would be Sunday’s headliner, she made history as the youngest headliner ever, and only the fourth woman to headline the festival after Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Björk. Grande’s Sweetener and thank, u next have plenty of catchy tunes with soaring hooks, and some of her singles – like “7 rings” and “thank u, next” – have commanded the Hot 100 chart for weeks now. Grande’s pop cultural dominance will reach another level at Coachella, where she’ll end both weekends on an incredibly joyous, high note. It’s a grand finale that won’t disappoint.

Bad Bunny

Puerto Rico’s newest star Bad Bunny is getting insanely popular by the day. Crowned as Latin trap’s king, the 25-year-old capped off a successful 2018 with his debut X 100PRE that features guest appearances from Diplo, El Alfa, and Drake. With as many guest features and hits as he has in his short career, he’s become such an in-demand act that his tour stops are becoming the stuff of legend. So his Coachella debut will be special; not because he’s part of the stacked talent of Latin artists on the line-up, but because the genuine support for Bad Bunny to win is real. It extends beyond his home of Puerto Rico, and each music festival appearance gets him one step closer to worldwide domination.

Gucci Gang (Gucci Mane, Smokepurpp, and Lil Pump)

Coachella caused a bit of an uproar when Gucci Gang appeared on the poster, getting many fans confused as to why festival organizers spelled Gucci Mane’s name incorrectly. It turns out that it was an announcement of a supergroup made up of Gucci Mane, Lil Pump, and Smokepurpp. You can look forward to the trio’s setlist filled with bangers that’ll induce chaos – how many times will they perform “Gucci Gang” in a row? Will Guwop crowd surf? Will Pump and Purpp have the biggest mosh pit of the weekend? At the very least, come and see how Gucci Gang operates as a unit, possibly debuting songs from their upcoming album too.

Playboi Carti

If you’ve never been to a Playboi Carti show, just remember one phrase: open that shit up. The Atlanta rapper, signed to A$AP Rocky’s AWGE label, has proved that you don’t have to be a lyrical prodigy to get the crowd moshing. Possessing an idiosyncratic style and sticky ad-libs, Carti’s set will have tons of energy and good vibes for a turnt up party. With a guest list on his last album Die Lit that ranges from Nicki Minaj and Chief Keef to Lil Uzi Vert and Travis Scott, there’s bound to be a few surprises for the Carti faithful.

Rico Nasty

A Rico Nasty show is punk rock meets hip-hop. She’s brash with an unflinching spirit, bringing to life her Sugar Trap aesthetic every time she touches the stage. Coming off her album Nasty, Rico is finishing up her upcoming collaboration project with producer Kenny Beats called Anger Management. The Maryland MC will definitely use her Coachella opportunity to weave in some new shit into her set, so you best prepare yourself.

YG

YG has been to Coachella a few times, but in different capacities. In 2016, he was a special guest for DJ Mustard’s set, which signaled that their feud was finally over. YG performed “Fuck Donald Trump,” a protest song he created with the late Nipsey Hussle, among other classics to a crowd excited to see Mustard and YG reunited again. Two years later, in 2018, Cardi B brought him out for “She Bad,” which was another crucial moment for the Compton rapper. This year, YG tweeted “Boachella 19” – not only teasing his first solo performance, but also kept it real about what you’re going to expect: he’s not switching up for anybody.

Words by Eric Diep
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