On this day, April 15, in hip-hop history…
2012: Nearly 16 years after the fatal drive-by shooting, Tupac Shakur had returned. Sort of. After tag-teaming verses of “California Love,” Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre stopped their headlining Coachella set short to bring out a most unexpected guest, forcing the crowd of more than 75 thousand to collectively double-take and briefly affirming the life work of those intolerable ‘Pac conspirators.
“Yeeeah, you know what the fuck this is!” a shirtless hologram 2Pac shouted as he arrived in smoke. Did we?
The performance resumed quickly after, first with a rendition of “Hail Mary,” followed by a collaboration with Snoop on “2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted.” Then, before we fully knew what hit us, ‘Pac faded to black, and the gangsta party continued in confusion.
There was a lot to digest after news of the hologram made its way around social media. Was ‘Pac’s ghostly figure and unceremonious interaction with the Death Row crew more awkward than awesome? Was Coachella, a festival that was started three years after his death, really the proper place for 2Pac’s return? What did the Shakur estate think about the imitation? There’s no doubt Dre and Snoop had the right intentions, and while it took a minute to set in, some of hip-hop’s biggest names seemed to really dig it.
Two years later, the reputation of the 2Pac hologram performance remains inconsistent at best. While we haven’t seen virtual ‘Pac since, hip-hop was treated to similar homecomings for Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Eazy-E in 2013. And while ‘Pac’s reunion had its flaws, sales of Me Against the World, All Eyez On Me and Greatest Hits increased dramatically after the festival. Meanwhile, Digital Domain Media Group, the creators of the hologram, filed for bankruptcy just five months later.
The first weekend of Coachella’s 2014 run featured another polarizing hip-hop moment, this time with the comeback of OutKast after a decade-long hiatus. Stay on your heels in Indio, homies.—Steven Goldstein