April 20, 2014 7:05am PT by Jeff Miller, Billboard
Coachella: Pharrell Taps Jay Z, T.I., Usher for Guest-Filled Set
Following his set at last week's Coachella Festival, fans wondered if Pharrell Williams could possibly have any more surprises up his sleeve. After all, his hour on April 12 included sit-ins from Gwen Stefani (“Hollaback Girl”), Nelly (“Hot in Herre”), and Snoop Dogg (“Drop It Like It's Hot”); anyone else would either have called in all of their favors or have the same ones returned in their second week.
Not so for Williams: his eminently likable set was propelled by a phalanx of multicultural dancers, a spot-on band, Williams' winning, charming personality, and another onslaught of special guests, with only one repeat: Busta Rhymes, who blasted his way once again through “Pass The Courvoisier Pt. 2.”
But other than that, it was newness in the guest department. Rapper T.I. appeared first, reprising his roll in this summer's chart-topper, “Blurred Lines.” He was followed by Clipse frontman Pusha T (“Grindin'”); R&B hitman Usher, who sang the Pharrell-written “U Don't Have to Call;” and main man (and perennial Coachella attendee) Jay Z, who joined Pharrell for an extended cameo on “Frontin',” “Excuse Me Miss,” “La La La (Exuse Me Miss Again),” and “I Just Wanna Love U (Give it 2 Me).”
COACHELLA WEEKEND 1: Pharrell Rules With Hits, the Hat and Huge Guest Stars (Video)
Though Williams didn't “take it all the way back” as he promised (that would have meant breaking out the Wreckx-N-Effects classic “Rumpshaker”), the hitmaker parade was just a reminder of the scope of his work. Williams' sets both weekends were packed with huge songs (including his collab with Daft Punk, “Get Lucky,” and his current megasmash, “Happy”), and didn't even touch all of the corners of his catalog; his work with Justin Timberlake, for instance, went wholly unrecognized, as did his collaborations with Azaelia Banks, and, even much of his current solo record, Girl. It didn't matter one bit: this was a variety show of the highest degree, with the best MC the Coachella masses could hope for.
With temperate weather and overall high spirits, the rest of the day could also count many highlights. Muse brought out the big guns production wise, with guitarist Matt Bellamy and bassist Christopher Wolstenholme riding cages on the ends of massive cranes into the audience during “Uprising,” a stunt they couldn't pull off the first week due to weather. MGMT and Kid Cudi traded guest spots during each other's sets, with Cudi breaking out dance moves to “Electric Feel,” and the psych-rockers playing through Cudi's “The Pursuit of Happiness.” Nas' 20th anniversary performance of “Illmatic” also ended up a run-through of new guests, with Damian Marley and Lauryn Hill helping pay homage to the classic album.
This article first appeared on Billboard.com.