The Real Hologram: Why Coachella Sucks for Hip Hop Fans

The Real Hologram: Why Coachella Sucks for Hip Hop Fans

If you’ve been on the Internet at all in the last day or two, you’ve likely been bombarded with a slew of GIFs and videos of a glistening, shirtless Tupac bouncing across the Coachella stage alongside Snoop and Dr. Dre. A resurrection perhaps? Has he finally emerged from his hiding place in the Caribbean? Not exactly. And I, for one, am grateful — if only because I don’t want those annoying Tupac conspiracy theorists to be right. It was in fact, a hologram. Think Star Wars, or I, Robot; a posthumous 3D projection of one of hip hop’s most legendary martyrs performing from beyond the grave in front of 100,000 concertgoers.

This whole hologram business has caused quite an uproar, and more than one shout of, “hip hop isn’t dead!” Somehow, a poorly-animated projection of Tupac, sixteen years after his death, rhyming “years” and “tears” for just over four minutes has completely and utterly usurped any and all other performances that took place within the hip hop sphere.

People have pretty much forgotten about Eminem taking the stage with Dre to remind everyone who got him famous, or 50 Cent trying to revive irrelevant hits like “In Da Club”, let alone the real living reunion that took place between El-P, Mr. Len, and Bigg Jus of Company Flow. Although El tweeted about the legendary and pioneering underground rap group, saying “yes, Co Flow is gonna try and nock[sic] out some new songs. had too much fun doing these shows not to give it a whirl,” it seems to have fallen entirely on deaf ears.

It can’t be a sense of nostalgia that has engendered Coachella fans so entirely; I doubt there was anyone there old enough to have seen Pac perform before his death. The audience was so caught up in the idolatry that they forgot the three large notes they paid to watch a glorified video recording.

Beyond the unnaturalness of the hologram itself, there a couple other parts of the act that make my skin crawl. Maybe it’s a gimmicky stab at a new generation of Tupac fans, or trying to jump-start Interscope’s profits by reviving dead rappers and their catalogues.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of this whole ordeal is the hologram’s implications for future concerts. It is almost certain we are going to see more of this, but what is next? Kurt Cobain at Lollapalooza? A recreation of Woodstock with its original lineup, all recreated in CGI? My prediction is that every major artist will soon have a digital hologram version made of themselves that can be beamed around the world for a fraction of touring costs.

In fact, the company that made the Tupac hologram confirmed this intention, saying, “I can say it’s affordable in the sense that if we had to bring entertainers around world and create concerts across the country, we could put [artists] in every venue in the country.” It won’t be too long before you go to your neighborhood concert venue to see a digital performance of your favorite group, joining people around the country watching the exact same performance while the real artists rest comfortably at home.

As the first major festival to embrace this technology that can unite fans with rap icons of yesteryear (and MCs who would rather sit on their couch), it seems clear that Coachella has taken a groundbreaking step toward simultaneously advancing and preserving hip hop culture.

Yes, Coachella has done right by hip hop fans once again. And by hip hop fans, I mean teenage hipsters who pay their respects to the classics by listening to “California Love” in the car with their friends, and who are, “really into Mac Miller lately.”

The point is this: Coachella has proven once again why it is routinely the among the worst of the big-name music festivals for fans of hip hop. Each year it panders to the hoards of scenesters intrigued by the edginess of hip hop without any real interest the art form, and a number of flat-brimmed bros, by stocking the festival with a few recognizable hip hop acts. Sadly, the entire gesture is only a thinly-veiled grab for more ticket sales and a lunge towards trendiness. It doesn’t at all seem to be a sincere effort to incorporate hip hop in any real or meaningful sense.

This year at Coachella is nothing new with respect to the festival’s hip hop offerings. It seems like all you need to score a spot on stage is a trending video, just ask A$AP Rocky, Azealia Banks, or even Childish Gambino. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve bumped “212” as much as the next guy, but at $300 a ticket, don’t festival-goers deserve acts with at least one album under their belt? There are a few noteworthy hip hop acts – performances by Death Grips and The Gaslamp Killer, along with the a fore mentioned Company Flow reunion – that make it almost worth the sticker price. But not quite, and true hip hop fans aren’t going to be placated by a few flash-in-the-pan artists and veterans rehashing the same songs they’ve been beating on for nearly two decades.

Most Coachella acts – from other genres — don’t follow this formula. Indie veterans like Radiohead and The Shins who consistently produce new and relevant music, and newer-but-established artists like Bon Iver and the Black Keys, make the festival much more enjoyable for fans of indie rock. However, when it comes to hip hop, it’s either the newest one-hit-wonders, or mainstream artists from fifteen years ago. Would Blink-182 or Christina Aguilera make the cut? Probably not, so why Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and the Grand Theft Auto-esque reincarnation of Tupac? Maybe the hipster’s love for irony is to blame.

So was hip hop alive at Coachella this year? About as much as Tupac was alive while “he” performed on stage. Save a few glimmers of talent in a few up-and-coming acts who still have to prove themselves in the ring and overlooked veterans, Coachella fell flat by any hip hop aficionado’s standards – just like every year. Me, I’ll just catch my leg of The Money Store tour, watch “End to End Burners” a couple times, and blow my $300 on Rusto and real hip hop.

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