Dr. Dre is no longer one of hip-hop’s best producers, but his Coachella performance with Snoop Dogg Sunday night finds the legendary beatmaker positioning himself as hip-hop’s finest producer of camp. That transcendentally stupid Tupac hologram for sure, but don’t forget the two tracks that followed: Sub-B.o.B Detox non-starting single, “I Need a Doctor,” with a guest appearance from Eminem, and via footage from the song’s video, Skylar Grey’s vocals stuffed into the mouth of Victoria’s Secret advertisement wraith (yet, minus Dre’s verse, effectively ruining the resurrection concept of the song), and a live band dubstep version of “Forgot About Dre,” that shot laser synths through a beat that doesn’t need hammy modernization.
Hanging out onstage were cloying, ridiculous reminders of Dre’s legacy, and two gauche attempts to seem relevant, while somewhere on the grounds, Black Hippy, Dre’s actual mealticket to relevancy and interesting music again, were nowhere to be found. Save for Kendrick Lamar, of course — canny genius rapper who wants to break through so bad he’s willing bend over backwards and muddle his gifts — who showed up to do “The Recipe,” an inert summer jam that will stand out on the radio and trounce kind of good rap chill-outs from J. Cole and Wale, but remains deeply unsatisfying given the talents involved.
Back to Tupac the hologram. It wasn’t so much a hologram (because those don’t exist yet) as it was a CGI-creepy recreation of Tupac with ’90s Marvel Comics abs, nearing what John Waters might call “good-bad taste.” Tastelessly absurd, the one-two punch of “Tupac” finishing “Gangsta Party,” then waving to the crowd, turning around, and not walking off screen, but exploding into little pieces and I guess, beaming back up to heaven, returning to rap’s thug mansion in the sky, felt more like a skit by media/medium satirists Tim & Eric skit than something that actually just happened. “Coachella, make some fuckin’ noise for Tupac,” Dre shouted out afterwards, ruthlessly selling the concept, pretending that the villain from Grand Theft Auto-looking character on the big screen was real.
Twisting up rap’s obsession with both realness and “realness,” taking retromania to another level of remaking and remodeling, there is a big obnoxious smarty-pants paper to be written about this “performance.” Dre and Snoop stood up there, not only pretending like it was the ’90s again, but willing themselves and a tripping balls crowd back to 1997, thanks to cheesy technology. The sub-gimmick, when Snoop traded verses with “Tupac” on “2 of Americaz Most Wanted,” seemed to be the implicit message that these guys had really rehearsed this mess! It was ostentatious, self-promotional pap, “by any means necessary” twisted up towards a ridiculous shtick that has everyone tweeting and pretending this was innovative or anything other than absurd. Transcendently, tastelessly absurd, though. Tupac, rap’s legendary, self-promotional, self-destructive people-pleasing goon, surely would’ve approved. Now let us never speak of this again.