Technology Resurrects Tupac

I rarely write about the same artist twice on this site, much less twice in a row, but by sheer happenstance Coachella organizers decided to make history the night after I recognized similarities between Tupac Shakur and The Beach Boys. In retrospect, this makes for a much better post.

In case you don’t know, the hologramed-Tupac stunt was the brainchild of Dr. Dre. Coachella organizers, with the massive profits made from soliciting millions of dollars from well-off concert goers, gave him the green light and limitless funds to resurrect anyone he wanted. He chose wisely.

This wouldn’t have worked ten years ago. In 2002, the wounds from Tupac’s death only six years before were still fresh in the hip-hop community. After all, he and Biggie died as tragic heroes in a culture popularly perceived as a cancer to America’s youth. Tupac was only 24 years old when he died in Las Vegas, with years of intellectual freedom barred by his producer Suge Knight still ahead of him. Any attempt to reanimate his body, even in the correct spirits, would have seemed then as disrespectful to a man who seemed to only give his soul to the world. Not to mention, the computer graphics in those days would not have done it justice like it did today.

This also wouldn’t have worked with any other musician. I am aware that the list of dead-too-soon rappers, much less rock stars, is long and filled with quality, but none have had a post-mortem impact quite like Tupac. As a society, we have learned to accept the deaths of musicians as happenstances of dangerous lifestyles, but sixteen years after his murder, we have yet to accept Tupac as dead. That’s why he has released more posthumous albums than living LPs. That’s why he has the ability to pump up a festival crowd as a technological figment. That’s why after sixteen years, and many superior talents washed aside, he regularly tops the list of people’s favorite rapper (well, out here in California, anyway).

This wouldn’t have worked without Dre and Snoop Dogg, either, both of whom contributing equally to the most fascinating concert stunt I have ever seen. This goes nowhere without Dre’s phenomenal vision, especially his deference to those most important to Tupac (he even asked Shakur’s mother for permission)! An acting credit goes to Snoop, who stayed as collected as ever trading verses and timing jabs with a predetermined projection. Put anyone else up there with less stage presence, and the stunt crumbles into ignominy, a greater waste of funds than strobe lights at a dance stage (seriously, we don’t need those).

It worked; the stunt was both well-executed and respectful. But as a request to any other concert organizers chomping at the bits to resurrect anyone from Buddy Holly to Amy Winehouse: DON’T. This should be a one-time deal. You shouldn’t resurrect the dead (I believe Harry Potter taught us that). As much as I would love to see Joe Strummer, Ian Curtis, or Freddy Mercury perform, those who will try to bring them back will walk a slippery slope between endless profits and the height of disrespect. Tupac’s resurrection is acceptable because he’s not really dead in our minds, though any subsequent attempts at his revival will be treading the same slope.

Will this be a hallmark of festival experiences? The start of a disgusting new trend (don’t you dare LiveNation)? An example of the harmony between technology and the sympathies of the human experience? I hope it will be remembered simply as a tribute to one of the greatest.

A spectacular, marvelous, one-of-a-kind tribute.

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1 Comment

  1. […] Jackson hologram is performing right now…I’m going to need more time to process this. These were my thoughts from the Coachella Tupac hologram done two years ago, and I think they still […]


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