Opportunism rears its ugly head with possible Tupac hologram tour

If you have an internet connection, or at least a friend, a co-worker, or a neighbor with one, then you know all about 2Pac’s triumphant return to the stage at Coachella on Sunday night where he appeared via “hologram” alongside Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.

At first glance, the sight of the late Tupac Shakur was stunning, every aspect being in check, from his tattoos and posture to his voice, which referred to the festival by name. Upon closer inspection, though, the image of the late rapper looked kind of like a Playstation 2 video game character. The problem here, however, is not the image’s accuracy to 2Pac, which it pretty much nailed, but the inherent question, “Is it okay to take a dead person’s likeness and use it for real life performance?”

Let’s get one technical thing out of the way first: This image is not a hologram — it’s a two-dimensional projection. More importantly, though, the term is not just technical but what the rappers hosting the performance, as well as the audience, are assuming Shakur would want. Sure the performance got the approval of the rapper’s mother, but we still don’t know what 2Pac thinks about it, and we never will, because he’s dead.

Taking someone’s likeness and using it for media posthumously can be okay. We watch bio pics about our favorite historical figures all the time, and that’s fine because it’s a film, a mode of telling a story whether it’s true or false. Music, however, is real life. The story of Shakur’s life and death is not some fairy tale, and this is not the epilogue. He’s a murder victim. Taking his image and using it as a performance method with the vague notion that if he could re-enter our world as a ghost, he would, and he’d spend his time playing shows, is presumptuous and exploitative.

2Pac’s Coachella performance from beyond the grave was strange and ham-fisted but forgivable. Taking it out on tour, though?

The Wall Street Journal states that given the hype and press surrounding Sunday’s show, Dr. Dre may be looking to take his dead friend on the road for what the publication refers to as a “massive vision.” The concept is creepy, to say the least, like the seeds of a new trend in entertainment that seems straight out of “A.I.” In the case of fallen hip-hop stars, it seems the likely place for such a trend to start, the genre being well known for its large scale aggrandizing of its stars,¬†expedited¬†since the murders of two of its biggest figureheads in the hip-hop wars of the mid-90s.

But if it’s okay for a 2Pac replica to grace the stage for a few songs, is it okay for Biggie Smalls to get the treatment, and from there John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, Ian Curtis, and Jeff Buckley? When Cobain’s likeness was used in “Rock Band 2,” the world was understandably aghast about his image being trivialized in the homes of video game fans across the world. Is a fake 2Pac playing sold out shows with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg any different?

There’s also, of course, the issue of 2Pac’s legacy being exploited by his former Death Row colleagues. The appeal of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg today exists purely on nostalgia. No one is going to see Snoop this year so they can hear tracks from “Doggumentary.” No one actually enjoys the Hot Topic pop of “I Need a Doctor.” There was some talk yesterday on this site about the possibility of hardcore being over the hill as signified by the 50th birthday of punk rock legend Ian MacKaye. We may need to find new ways to get out the passion and aggression that was started by bands like Minor Threat 30 years ago in new and inventive ways, but nothing, most certainly not a projection of Tupac Shakur, is going to reinstate Dre and Snoop into some new phase of hip-hop glory.

All philosophizing and over-analysation aside, did they really spend $10,000,000 on a 2Pac “hologram” for a southern California festival, and not play “California Love”? The crime of missed opportunity might be the biggest offense here actually. Perhaps this is what a tour looks to correct, but as the Journal states the tentative plans could easily “fall apart for any number of reasons.” The most glaring reason I can think of is the emergence of a conscience.