Death and technology

Apparently his mother approves. She was “positively thrilled” by her son’s brief return to the stage courtesy of entrepreneur Dre Dre who forked out a considerable sum to fund the resurrection.

Peyvand Khorsandi
19 April 2012

Two American rappers about to go on tour are considering reviving their colleague to join them in holographic form – because he’s dead. Earlier this week CGI wizardry allowed Tupac Shakur, gunned down in Las Vegas 1996, to join his contemporaries Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre at the Coachela festival in California to perform his song Gangsta Party.

Pac had barely changed at all: muscles rippling, bounce, and his distinctive tattoo, if now rather ironically, declaring: Thug Life.

The holographic Pac was so animated that he made his duet partner Snoop, look like the dead one. He strutted about the stage with impossible energy as the Dogg, dressed in dark tones, cut a shadowy figure, upstaged by the bizarre spectral spectacle of his former peer.

Rather eerily, Tupac addressed the festival by name “What’s up Coachela!” – for this is CGI, not archive footage. (He could potentially deliver a lecture on kitchen hygiene in Cantonese)

Now he’s about to go on tour, posthumously, a feat only previously accomplished by Chris De Burgh. Apparently his mother approves. She was “positively thrilled” by her son’s brief return to the stage courtesy of entrepreneur Dre Dre who forked out a considerable sum to fund the resurrection.

While reports suggest some at the festival were unnerved by the live performance, Dr Dre’s investment seems to be paying off with all the publicity generated.

Death and technology fascinate us endlessly – witness new pictures this week of the effects of people who perished on the Titanic. (We’re not going to be satisfied until a head pops through a porthole like in Jaws.)

In the CGI rendering of Tupac death and technology meet – but surely touring a dead man without his consent is wrong, even if his mother says yes. Can such a tour amount to anything more than tomb-raiding.

How can a person rest in peace when they are made to dance on stage – or do dead people lose their right to autonomy?

It all seems a bit tasteless – next we’ll hear Gunther van Hagens, who started the Body Worlds exhibition, has leant Dr Dre one of his corpses to recreate the rapper proper.

If you put the dazzle aside – and let’s face it, this is nowhere near as impressive as R2-D2’s projection of Princess Leia in Star Wars – death is being exploited for profit.

Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson could be back before we know it. And Martin Luther King will join Barack Obama on the White House lawn.

An iPhone app in 20 years will allow you to invite dead relatives around for Christmas and occasions such as weddings and, in a macabre twist, funerals too.

Click your fingers and hey presto, there’s Nana, on the sofa, knitting away while watching telly, just like she used to.

In his song Life Goes On, Tupac issued instructions for his death: “Bury me smilin’/ With G’s [a couple of grand] in my pocket / Have a party at my funeral”.

But he also communed with a dead friend. “We’re gonna clock now” – the life of hustling continues, he says – “and basically just represent for you baby”; presumably what Dre and Snoop are doing. In How Long Will They Mourn Me, though, he complains of losing his friends: “They should’ve shot me when I was born / Now I’m trapped in the motherfuckin’ storm / How long will they mourn me?” It’s a good question.

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