2Pac hologram at Coachella: innovative or morbid?

For those of you who haven’t heard yet, 2Pac recently made a headlining appearance alongside Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival in Indio, California. Or at least it looked like he did. A holographic projection of the deceased hip-hop icon took the Coachella main stage last Sunday night and performed many of his classics, including “2 of Americaz Most Wanted” and “Hail Mary,” to a packed crowd at the three-day festival. The introduction of 2Pac’s hologram, however, has prompted much controversy. Since the performance, talk of what to do with this technology, as well as the morality behind it, have shot around news headlines, leading to many questions being raised.

One of the main areas of interest surrounding the surprise appearance is the technology behind 2Pac’s hologram. According to Dr. Dre, the man behind the inception of holographic 2Pac, the hologram was created by special effects house Digital Domain, the same company that generated Brad Pitt’s transformation in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” AV Concepts, a full-service audio-visual staging company, was then hired to develop and control the projecting of the image of 2Pac on stage. AV Concepts’ president, Nick Smith, recently informed MTV that the task of creating the hologram took several months of planning and four months of development, a feat that brought 2Pac to life, at least for the night.

Though the projection of Shakur appears to be 3-dimensional, the image is actually 2D. In order to create this effect, Shakur’s image was projected onto an angled piece of glass on the ground. In turn, the image was then projected onto a Mylar screen located on stage. Using this customized screen, AV Concepts was able to make it appear as though 2Pac was actually emerging onto the stage, back from the dead. Although Smith didn’t directly quote the monetary investment involved in the hologram, he did mention that a similar investment would require between $100,000 and $400,000.

But what does one do with a $400,000 investment and customized technology? They take it on tour, of course. Sources recently told MTV that both Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg were seriously considering taking the holographic 2Pac on the road with them. Various sources, including CBSNews, mention different types of touring, but the most common ones cited include a stadium tour involving other hip-hop artists like 50 Cent and Eminem or a smaller venue tour with only Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. Whether or not either of these options will ever come to fruition is unknown, but one thing is for sure: profit is definitely there to be made.

This potential for profit, at least for me, however, leads to the biggest issue surrounding the hologram. Is there something morally wrong with a holographic 2Pac? On one hand, the hologram represents both the devotion of the fans and of the artists to 2Pac and his contributions to the music industry. In a recent interview with Billboard Magazine, Nas was even quoted as saying the hologram was “genius,” and that it represents 2Pac’s cultural significance. But, on the other hand, a holographic 2Pac seems to reflect an incredibly morbid form of capitalism. Are there really no other profit-making alternatives in the music industry in this day and age, or are holograms really the future? Clearly, box sets and posthumous releases were not enough. I can’t help but to wonder what 2Pac’s mother, Afeni Shakur, thinks of it all.

As for whether or not this holographic trend will continue, I have no idea. It would certainly be intriguing to see holographic Notorious B.I.G.s and Ol’ Dirty Bastards walking around, but it would also be remarkably creepy. Aside from the morbidity surrounding it all, though, it is refreshing to see and hear classic material from such an influential artist, especially at a time when nearly everyone is considering themselves rappers. While I’m not sure I will be willing to pay to see a holographic 2Pac prance around stage if in fact it does hit the road, I am still holding high hopes for the tour. Perhaps this will finally be the moment that 2Pac will emerge from the back lot, à la Ashton Kutcher, and announce that for the last 16 years he has been punking us all.

Dylan is a junior. You can reach him at pjensen1@swarthmore.edu.

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