Unless you subscribe to the carrier penguin version of The MindHut (and bless you for keeping those penguins off the mean streets), you are on the Internet. And since you are on the Internet, you have probably heard from one source or another that a hologram version of late rap icon Tupac Shakur made a not-safe-for-school cameo at a Snoop Dogg/Dr. Dre performance this weekend.
A lot's already been written about this trend: some bloggers gushing about the technology that made the cameo possible, others penning their wish lists for holographic performances to come. It's a lot to wade through. But we waded—oh, how we waded—to bring you this primer in the form of a schizophrenic conversation with ourselves on everything you need to know about the 'Pac-o-gram, why it's important, and why it really isn't at all. Because we love you that much.
Bah! Everyone's talking about this holographic rapping thing. I don't get it. Explain in one sentence!
Sure: Two wealthy, very-much-alive rappers danced around an eerily lifelike projection of a very-much-dead rapper in front of a huge audience last weekend.
Intriguing. Explain it in several more sentences!
Fo shizzle, HutHizzles. West Coast emcees/hip-hop icons Snoop "Doggy" Dogg and Dr. Dre closed out this year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California with a star-studded set that included cameos from Eminem, 50 Cent, Wiz Khalifa, and eventually a convincing projection of late rap legend Tupac Shakur, who has been dead for about 15 years. Though Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting three years before the Coachella festival was even a thing, his hologram still managed to give a shout out to the festival by name before strutting around to renditions of his classic tunes "Hail Mary" and "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted," doing nothing to quell the rumors that he's secretly alive in New Zealand somewhere. The festival will repeat the same lineup this weekend, so we'll see which computer-rendered ghosty Snoop and Dre decide to conjure this Sunday.
Also of note: the "hologram," painstakingly designed by Digital Domain (who did effects for TRON: Legacy, Benjamin Button, and X-Men: First Class) and projected by the Musion Eyeliner company, isn't so much a hologram as a clever 2-D video projection, a variation on a classic 1860's theatre trick called Pepper's Ghost. You can actually replicate the effect in your very own bedroom! All you need is a mirror, a white bedsheet to hang up as a screen, and a million dollar Musion Eyeliner 2D projector system. Post your results in the comments section.
If it's such an old trick the why do people care about this?
Well, for one, people care about Tupac. The dude was one of the freshest voices in hip-hop of his time, and remains one of the world's best-selling artists. To see a convincing approximation of him, creepy as it was, strut around while his famous songs blared over festival speakers was exciting for a lot of people.
The rise of realistic holograms is also a stark reminder that Star Wars technology is now, officially, a reality. We're personally waiting to expense a fleet of office Pod Racers, but this is a nice start.
We could also point out that holograms are fiendish constructions of the necromancer queen Ga'Lool, and that they must be swiftly banished back to the Void from whence they came before our bodies all are claimed as host vessels to serve the Night Queen's bidding, leaving us soul-crippled and powerless to speak in any tongue but '90s West Coast rap—but that's common knowledge and, frankly, the government's problem to deal with.
Other than that, why is this hologram thing significant?
It's not! It's really not. It's another case of Internet overshare giving viral exposure to a fairly common occurrence (stage performers employ classic theater trick), sort of like what happened with Lana Del Rey (pop star has manufactured look, sound).
This effect is not new. You've seen it if you've ever been to Disney's Haunted Mansion or the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. You've also seen it if you watched CNN's coverage of election night 2008. If you watched the 2006 Grammy awards, your saw the cartoon members of The Gorillaz and Madonna project themselves onto the stage for some reason. But never has such a convincing 2D likeness of a dead icon been used on stage in front of such a massive live audience—between 65 - 100,000 people, depending on which website you believe, and millions more tuned in on YouTube. The 'Pac-o-gram was poised for Internet fame from it's ghostly inception. o0o0oOOO0o0o0OO!!!
So, what does this mean for the future of holograms, rapping or otherwise?
Well, there's talk of taking the 'Pac-o-gram on tour, which raises all kinds of possibilities. As holographic conference calls become more common, for example, we could see a functional Jedi council scenario that would render the UN headquarters obsolete. As CG becomes more convincing and holographic projection becomes cheaper and more prevalent, it'll be a cinch, say, to create a live audio/visual experience based on archived Beatles footage. Or Elvis. Or Queen, or Amy Winehouse, or Michael Jackson (people already pay hundreds to see circus performers caper about in tights to his famous tunes ). Holographic concerts festivals could be rampant, and hologram museums could replace wax galleries, plunging the century into an even greater morass of digital dominance. Let's not even go into what this could mean for adult entertainment. It's a creepy thought. But not unlikely.
Yep. Relish this moment, ye youths, when musicians still have substance and bodies. Twenty years from now, while you're riding your hover-walrus to take your kids to see the Jimi Holographix Experience in Neo Vegas, you can turn significantly around to them and say, "In my day, only rappers were holograms."