Other than Guns N’ Roses, no other artist came into Coachella with such high expectations this year than Ice Cube. The veteran rapper’s legendary group N.W.A was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last week after riding high on the biopic Straight Outta Compton, and Cube was on the record that he’d try to reunite the group for his Coachella set. His placement just before GnR on the main stage seemed to support the theory that Cube would bring the big guns, as did his massive two-story stage setup.
Thankfully, he didn’t disappoint — in fact, Cube’s guest-heavy, ultra-confident, career-spanning set will likely go down as one of the highlights of the weekend, with Cube (who also stars in the current Barbershop: The Next Cut) proving he deserved his prime spot.
Cube emerged on the second story of his stage, arriving above his DJ in a throne made to look like the “Westside” hand gesture, which his fans waved throughout the set. “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” may have seemed like an unlikely opener for any other family movie star dad, but with bravado and swagger, Cube was clearly wearing his OG cred on his sleeve. The N.W.A semi-reunion came early in the set, with DJ Yella and MC Ren both reprising their iconic roles on “Straight Outta Compton” and “Fuck Tha Police.” Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr. — who played Cube in the Compton movie — also helped with some of the verses on “Dopeman.”
Even with the group missing Dr. Dre, their current relevance was never a question, especially during “Police,” which featured a video montage of recent racially charged police brutality. Had Cube gone solo from there it still would have been a noteworthy set, but he didn’t: later in the set, Common joined him on the new “Real People” (which, thanks to some Barbershop branding, felt a bit shilly), and Snoop Dogg broke in for a verse on “Go to Church” before rapping a snippet of the Dre-produced “The Next Episode.”
Cube, of course, closed with his signature song “It Was A Good Day” — apropos not just for the relevance to his career, but to the set itself. When he asked if the audience had a good time, it didn’t feel rote — Cube had clearly won over converts, while reminding those who’ve followed him for years that despite some detours, he never really stopped his hustle.