Imagine a magical, sun-soaked place where cultural appropriation abounds and social justice warriors can’t afford tickets. Long-heralded as an oasis for douchebags and festival brats, The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival doubles as a haven for outdated and offensive trends. Apparently, there’s something about the California desert that inspires USC students to throw off the veneer of collegiate P.C. culture, slap on a feather headdress and unabashedly sing along to Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.”
Coachella has always been associated with offensive trends—fashion bindis, “tipi” rentals, and eating $225 prix fixe dinners at an outdoor music festival, to name just a few. But this year, the festival’s casual racism took a turn for the overt when media outlets started reporting on the questionable politics of Philip Anschutz, the owner of Coachella’s parent company AEG. The Washington Post wrote that Anschutz had donated to the Alliance Defending Freedom campaign, a legal group that’s sponsored over 200 anti-LGBTQ bills in 34 states. He’s also funded the Family Research Council, a self-described “pro-life, pro-marriage” organization that publishes proudly transphobic misinformation.
In a statement to Rolling Stone, Anschutz attempted damage control, saying, “Recent claims published in the media that I am anti-LGBTQ are nothing more than fake news—it is all garbage…I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation.”
He added, “Neither I nor the [Anschutz] Foundation fund any organization with the purpose or expectation that it would finance anti-LGBTQ initiatives, and when it has come to my attention or the attention of the Anschutz Foundation that certain organizations either the Foundation or I have funded have been supporting such causes, we have immediately ceased all contributions to such groups.”
Unfortunately, no carefully worded statement changes the fact that peace and love Coachella attendees are funneling daddy’s hard-earned dollars straight into the pocket of a painfully un-woke septuagenarian climate change denier. And any festivalgoer who thought they could coast through the 2017 lineup without having to examine their racial privilege will have to think again. That’s because Drake—the 6 God himself—has just accused his Coachella Valley accommodations of racial profiling.
Drake has never in his life had an un-complicated relationship. So it’s not surprising that he and Coachella have had their ups and downs. In 2015, the Canadian rapper courted controversy by making out with Madonna during his closing set. After a lipstick-stained Drake grimaced before asking the crowd “What the fuck just happened?” fans interpreted his shock as disgust or lack of consent. Luckily, champagnepapi took to Instagram to clear things up, explaining, “I got to make out with the queen Madonna and I feel 100 about that forever.”
This year, Drake wasn’t even on the official Coachella lineup. Presumably, he hauled ass to the California desert to make some surprise on stage appearances and bear witness to Rihanna’s great outfits. So imagine Drake’s dismay when faced with alleged discrimination from the exclusive Madison Club during his damn vacation. In a now-deleted Instagram, Drake shared a picture of the residential community/golf club’s logo, captioned, “The most offensive place I have ever stayed at in my life with staff who pick and choose who they are going to accommodate based on racial profiling #Coachella.”
According to Complex, “an account believed to be affiliated with the Madison Club”—@TheMadisonClubs—commented on Drake’s original Instagram, pledging that a formal apology was in the works and insisting, “We will also be investing this as we do not tolerate racial discrimination.”
In the wake of Drake’s not-so-flattering shout-out, the swanky Madison Club’s previously staid Yelp page has been taken over by irate OVO fans. One reviewer wrote, “Y’all upset Drake and his crew. You don’t mess with Drizzy and not get dragged. Here take an L and have a seat with United Airlines you’re done.” And another one: “The staff here showed fake love straight up to my face. They gotta know I’m more than just an option. Just hold on, I’m going home.” If you didn’t think that Drake’s fans would immediately clap back with fake Yelp reviews complete with corny lyrical references, you clearly don’t know the first thing about Drake.
Naturally, the Madison Club isn’t your average Airbnb-able bungalow. According to its website, the club is “the most exclusive private residential community in La Quinta, California.” In addition to traditional country club memberships, the Madison Club also boasts luxury residences and five “privately owned” Clubhouse Suites. The Madison Club naturally caters to wealthy homeowners—current listings appear to include $12 million asking prices—and has boasted high profile residents like Sylvester Stallone and manager to the stars Irving Azoff.
In 2014, a Madison Club property made headlines as the most expensive listing in the Coachella Valley with a cool $34 million asking price. Previous celebrity visitors include Harry Styles, who made an appearance on the Madison Club golf course when he was attending Coachella back in 2014.
Discovery Land Company CEO Michael Meldman and his longtime collaborator Tom Fazio spent an estimated $200 million on the Madison Club project. Meldman has an interesting resume for a real-estate tycoon. The CEO describes his properties as “frat houses for families,” and brags that he’s one of “the best beer-pong players in the world.” Fittingly, he teamed up with Rande Gerber and George Clooney to found Casamigos Tequila, a premium tequila company.
In 2013, a “personal domestic employee” of Meldman’s who was paid by the Madison Club filed a wrongful termination suit against the club and his former employer. The plaintiff, who’s described in the filing as “the sole African-American employee employed in the Los Angeles,” alleged that he experienced discrimination and harassment due to his race, including but not limited to being “repeatedly referred to as a ‘nigga’ both verbally and in writing.” The plaintiff also alleged that Meldman would compare him to President Obama, “And would say, ‘You Obama’ed me’ to Plaintiff when he made a mistake.”
According to a 2007 report on the Madison Club’s gated community, “Membership is by invitation only and is limited to 225, a figure that corresponds with the number of homes and villas planned for the site.” While the Madison Club’s website doesn’t outline their membership application process, they do claim “equal opportunity housing.” A 2016 Town & Country profile of Meldman’s properties reported that membership eligibility is determined by “a quiet vetting process.” Meanwhile, a quick perusal of the Madison Club geo-tag on Instagram yields a disturbingly high ratio of swan pool floats to people of color.
The Madison Club did not respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment.