Between Kanye West’s sudden decision to cancel his set, the announcement of a surprise, final Brockhampton album, and new music from Megan Thee Stallion, Coachella 2022 had a bumper crop of viral happenings, even for a major festival. But one moment stood out for its real-world gravity: Isaiah Rashad’s return to the public eye following the February online leak of a video that appeared to show him sexually involved with other men.
“I see all the messages and all that shit, all the positivity,” Rashad said to a rapturous crowd when he first took the stage. “Y’all n-ggas done kept me alive these last couple months.” Back when the videos were leaked, artists like Duke Deuce, DijahSB, and Chuck Inglish voiced their support for Rashad online.
Rashad has been candid about his struggles with depression and addiction–notably in a 2021 FADER cover story–and some fans were concerned that negative reaction to the leaked video could affect his mental health. Though he’s frank in his music about low moments and insecurities, Rashad is also careful about what information makes its way to the masses.
“People don’t care about what Quentin Tarantino’s doing, they only care if the movie’s good, you know?” he told GQ last July. “As a person who doesn’t really care for people to know about my personal life outside of what I want to share, I expect them to separate. I would hope they separate.”
Before coming onstage, Rashad played a mashup of reactions to the video, including the comments of prominent figures in rap like Joe Budden, DJ Akademiks and The Game. They noted that they had seen intense backlash against Rashad online, including some people saying they’ll never listen to him again. Also included was a voiceover claiming the leaked clip had a positive impact: “The purpose of doing that was to embarrass him. However, it backfired. When his video leaked, his streams and everything went up. He’s up on the charts now.”
In addition, Rashad used a more negative-leaning clip from a DJ Vlad interview in which notoriously homophobic rapper Boosie Badazz was asked about the video. (In classic DJ Vlad all-attention-is-good-attention fashion, they’ve reuploaded the inflammatory clip as of April 17 with the headline “This is The Interview Isaiah Rashad Used During His Coachella Set.”)
Rashad’s Coachella set largely consisted of music from his 2021 album The House is Burning, and he rapped ferociously throughout, even adding a sense of urgency to some of his more downtempo tracks. There was one instance where the gravity of the moment may have showed on Rashad’s face: fans online captured what appears to be a tear rolling down his cheek while performing “Wat’s Wrong.”
Isaiah Rashad will be performing once again at Coachella’s second weekend, where presumably the content of his set will be similar, though it’s unclear if the prerecorded video will play again. He also has high-profile tour dates and a Bonnaroo slot on the horizon.