Three years ago, a hologram of 2pac Shakur made it’s debut at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, and though I wasn’t there, the image haunted me for days. I could literally be in the middle of a wholly unrelated conversation and just switch the topic to “But wait, why would they make a hologram of 2pac?” It was more unnerving and unnecessary than the claymation ‘Pac in the “Do For Love” video that came out shortly following his death. Hologram ‘Pac consistently showed up in my thoughts and in no less than one of my nightmares, hollering “What the f*ck is up, Coachella?”
I had so many questions, but zero answers. How could Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dree comfortably appear on stage and interact with a weird ghost/shadow/video game version of their late friend/colleague? Was it sad for them? Why would anyone want to see a gray-haired Snoop hopping around with a creepy replica of ‘Pac in his final form: a 25-year-old? Why would anyone ever in any place or time want to see a hologram of someone on a concert stage, let alone someone who had been chopped down in his prime and would conceivably still be performing were he still alive? And is this how any one would want to be remembered—and monetized—in death?
Unsurprisingly, Hologram ‘Pac was just the start. Rumors and plans for Michael Jackson, Easy-E, Amy Winehouse and ODB "shows" would follow. Earlier this year, a Chief Keef hologram was even developed to tour in place of the rapper, who isn’t quite available to leave his California home these days. To be fair, long before the Coachella show, Will.I.Am, who is far from dead, showed up at a 2008 CNN election special as the first hologram to appear on TV, for reasons unknown.
Alas, it’s official: a scary Whitney Houston ghost will be hitting the stage, thanks to the billionaire behind Hologram USA and the late singer’s estate. Will all due respect to the fallen singer’s family, I just hate the idea of her likeness being used this way—and it’s hard for me to imagine her feeling otherwise. Not sure if you folks remember Being Bobby Brown, or Houston’s infamous interviews with Wendy Williams and Diane Sawyer, but I am pretty darn sure that the woman we knew and loved would be very particular about how she was portrayed. The idea that she would want a virtual shadow of herself to line anyone’s pockets doesn’t seem likely, especially considering that her beloved Bobbi Kristina is no longer with us and, thus, not in any financial need.
The idea of seeing hologram performances feels too Jetsons for a world where people still use fax machines and wait in line for hours at the DMV. We haven’t evolved this much yet. We don’t have space suits or flying cars and we don’t need virtual reality when YouTube videos and IMAX screens still work just fine.
The beautiful thing about recorded music is that it outlives the person who created it. You can experience Whitney’s mezzo-soprano, ‘Pac’s bravado and MJ’s 'Bad'-ness without having to bring them from the dead in some sort of flimsy nod to who they were on earth. You can even listen to a Chief Keef record as he is STILL ALIVE AND RECORDING THEM. A hologram can’t give you the feeling of seeing someone live and in person, it can only haunt your days and nights (if you are me) and it just doesn’t seem like an appropriate way to honor the dead, nor to enjoy the living.
Jamilah Lemieux is the Senior Editor for EBONY Magazine.