The rapper's high-tech resurrection at Coachella this past weekend embodied what Shakur has become in death: pure image, nostalgic totem, and ghastly spectacle.
In 1981, Rolling Stone famously slapped a photo of Jim Morrison on its cover to go with the headline: "He's Hot, He's Sexy and He's Dead." It's an important moment in the history of commodified nostalgia, the start of rock's most iconic publication selling magazines off memories of its own adolescence. After all, Rolling Stone began publication in late 1967, only a few months after Morrison's band broke through with "Light My Fire." The headline is catchy but slightly unseemly, the "He's Hot, He's Sexy" tinged with insistence. Here was rock music awkwardly reckoning with encroaching middle-age: Ten years after Morrison had successfully died before he'd gotten old, a whole world of people were starting to realize they hadn't.
On Sunday night at the Coachella Festival in Indio, California, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg shared a stage with a holographic rendering of Tupac Shakur. Within a few hours the performance had exploded on YouTube, creating a veritable symphony of simulacra and simulation that's sure to launch an entire subfield of academic media studies, replete with endless, groan-inducing "All Eyez On Me" puns. Sure, Hologram Tupac can tell us a lot of things about technology and representation and the internets and The Power of Social Media, but they are all things that we already know, and this latest development just takes them to discomfiting extremes. In other words, it's not shocking that Hologram Tupac exists; it's shocking that it's taken so long.