Fans of old school Gangsta rap were treated to an unusual resurrection at this year’s Coachella Festival, a desert weekend of cutting-edge music in California. Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg, notorious for being the greatest commercial sell-outs in the history of hip-hop, were tired of rehashing the talent of other producers and stooped to the lowest level of musical plagiarism: they recreated the deceased Tupac Shakur in holographic form to add to their own stage show.
Technologically, it’s nothing new: we’ve had the capacity to create holograms at this level of detail for years. What
is alarming is the ease of which Tupac could be manipulated to do whatever the holographic director wanted. ‘Pac never went to Coachella or gave a shout out, yet there he was, yelling “what’s up Coachella!?” in an alarmingly realistic way. For many viewers, this left many bells ringing: if they can imitate his voice, music and style, what exactly is stopping them from literally re-inventing Tupac as whatever they want?
One must first realise that, for the majority of the people at Coachella, this was their first real exposure to Tupac himself. The youth of today didn’t really grow up with ‘Pac on the boom box; many only know him by his name and infamy. They have
no point of reference to what Tupac Shakur was all about, what his deal and background and message was. Thusly, there is a real and distinct possibility to ‘reinvent’ Tupac into whatever Dre or Snoop want the man to be. The outcome won’t be necessarily negative or wrong, but there is no real way that we can assure we are acting in ‘Pac’s best interests.
Tupac has been dead for over 15 years, and while he was resting in peace, the rap game most certainly was not. No longer a hot beat and a catchy hook. The goal of the modern, affluent and ultimately talentless hack is to go viral on YouTube and eventually host a reality TV show. No one who is truly passionate about Tupac or Hip Hop want to see him bought down to the level of the many corporate drones (like Flo Rida or Pitbull) that dominate the contemporary scene. If this Tupac was really a tribute piece, not some money- grab, one would expect a reflection of the man’s ideals in his performance. Instead, we are all left with glorified husk of what was once great. His abs were perfectly sculpted, but his message was most certainly not.