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When I heard that Tupac Shakur was making an appearance at the Coachella Music Festival, I was sure it was just a gimmick.   Yea, Tupac is coming, maybe he’ll also appear with the Easter Bunny, I thought to myself. I had no plans of watching the performance, since I can easily find an abundant supply of Tupac lookalikes at cheap Las Vegas shows.

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After hearing that the performance involved holographic technology, I became intrigued by the possibilities.  Then, after being prodded by a friend, I went to YouTube like the rest of the world to see if the show was any good.  Like millions of other Tupac Shakur fans, I found myself absolutely floored.

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Tupac is more alive than ever, and the show was simply off the chain.   Every move was authentic, and it was spin chilling to see one of the greatest rappers of all time appear to rise from the dead.   It was hard for some fans to believe that Tupac died back in 1996, since he was one of the strongest human beings in the public space.   He confronted his enemies with unparalleled ferocity, took five bullets in a separate shooting, and even Iron Mike Tyson described Tupac as “absolutely fearless.”

Tupac’s “digital resurrection” was as eery as his actual death.  Almost no artist spent more time rapping about death than Pac, and he even wrote lyrics about coming back to life.  You might define him to be a Ghetto Jesus Christ: half-thug, half-visionary with a keen awareness of the challenges of his existence that gave him insights that most rappers don’t care to explore.

Pac’s tremendous energy was already communicated by the fact that he released more albums after his death than most artists finish while they are alive.  His intensity, passion, and ambition in the studio was reiterated with his every word, gesture and body movement.  He was great to us even before he started making great music; for, he was the last Black male hip-hop artist who actually acted like he gave a damn about the plight of Black males at all.

My hat goes off to Dr. Dre, the man who had the vision to pull off this stunt.  The most interesting thing about Tupac’s virtual performance is that it was actually Tupac Shakur, not Elvis Presley, Frank Sanatra, or even Michael Jackson.  The fact that hip-hop has produced the performance will change the music industry forever. It is truly a tribute to the brilliance of Dr. Dre and those who worked with him to do the impossible.

There is now talk of a Tupac tour, which would likely sell better than a tour by nearly every other living artist in America.  The reason that the virtual Pac would be guaranteed to sell is because, for many of us, Tupac never died.  Almost none of his fans knew Tupac as a living, breathing human being; we only knew him as a public figure who produced musical performances and news headlines every now and then.   Given that Pac kept the music flowing for 16 years after his death, he never skipped a beat, and we never felt that he was actually gone.

Now that Tupac has a physical manifestation to match his musical one, we get to enjoy Tupac in the same way we did when he was alive.  Once technology finds a way for the Virtual Tupac to release new songs, it will be as if he is a real artist, without all of the drama and baggage that comes with the hip-hop music industry.  In many ways, he will be a lower risk, higher return musical asset, which will reshape how music is sold around the world.

The return of the King has changed the game, there is no other way to say it.  If only the real Tupac could see what we’re all seeing right now, it’s simply breathtaking.


Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

Why Tupac’s “Resurrection” Was So Damn Scary  was originally published on