"Make some noise for Tupac" is not the first, or hundredth, thing you'd expect to hear at a hip hop show in 2012. But there he is—pants sagging, cross dangling from his neck, "Thug Life" tattoo emblazoned on his stomach—rhyming with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg during the duo's epic headlining set Sunday night at this year's Coachella festival. While the rumored Nate Dogg hologram never materialized, a holographic 'Pac (hologram if you hear me!) was one of several guests in Dre and Snoop's classics-heavy, 75-minute set.
Since releasing 2001, the long-awaited follow-up to 1992's The Chronic, more than a decade ago, Dr. Dre has been the Brian Wilson of hip hop, laboriously working on the mythic Detox album and rarely venturing out for live performances. Tonight, the rapper/producer was all smiles, running through Chronic classics ("Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang," with Snoop replacing Death Row with Aftermath as "the label that pays me") and 2001 hits ("Still D.R.E.," "The Next Episode") while playing hypeman to his protege Snoop on "Ain't No Fun" and "Drop It Like It's Hot." Just to repeat so it sinks in: Dr. Dre was the hypeman on "Drop It Like It's Hot."
With toxic waste barrels, power lines and a live band in the backdrop, Dre and Snoop made tonight's performance look more like a get-together with old friends than headlining festival set. Eminem, 50 Cent, Wiz Khalifa, Kurupt, Warren G (sporting a WarrenG.com shirt), Tony Yayo and Kendrick Lamar all made appearances, with Em and 50 running through three-song mini-sets that included "In Da Club" and the Em/Dre collabo "Forgot About Dre."
But the most talked about appearance was 'Pac, created by the same people who beamed Mariah Carey across five simultaneous concerts in Europe last year. As the stage went dark, a figure rose from below the stage and yelled, "What up, Dre? What up, Snoop? What the f**k is up, Coachella?!" Clever voice manipulation? a 'Pac voice-alike? The hologram paced across the stage to perform the first verse of "Hail Mary," emulating the real Shakur's stage gestures. The "rapper" subsequently went back and forth with Snoop on the duo's "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" before appearing at center stage to vaporize into the Indio ether.
Tupac Hologram Performs at Coachella
Surreal is the first word that comes to mind; an equal mix of honorific and eerie proving that on the world (musical) stage, Dre and Snoop weren't afraid to take chances. The duo also honored collaborator Nate Dogg, who died in 2011 of a stroke, with a photo montage of Nate and Snoop during "Ain't No Fun."
Before performing "Deep Cover," Dre's 1992 debut single and the first collaboration between the rapper and Snoop, Dre noted that the pair were celebrating 20 years together. Tonight's set, highlighted by both its focus on the classics and guest appearances, solidified Dre's importance and influence in hip hop over the past two decades. Despite not releasing an album in 13 years, he remains at the center of the rap universe, nurturing, and collaborating with, newcomers like Kendrick Lamar on "The Recipe" and reminding us why everyone's so damn itchy to hear Detox. It might be back to the studio tomorrow, but tonight, Dre and Snoop took a well-deserved victory lap and nostalgia trip, giving the people what they want while still breaking new technological ground.
1. The Next Episode
3. Gin and Juice
4. Deep Cover
5. Nuthin' But A "G" Thang
6. Ain't No Fun (If The Homies Can't Have None)
7. I Wanna Rock
8. Jump Around (House of Pain cover)
9. Drop It Like It's Hot
10. Young, Wild & Free (with Wiz Khalifa)
11. The Recipe (with Kendrick Lamar)
12. What Up Gangsta (with 50 Cent)
13. P.I.M.P. (with 50 Cent)
14. In da Club (with 50 Cent)
15. Xxplosive (Snippet)
16. California Love
17. Hail Mary (with Tupac hologram)
18. 2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted (with Tupac hologram)
19. I Need a Doctor (with Eminem)
20. Forgot About Dre (with Eminem)
21. Till I Collapse (with Eminem)
22. Who Am I? (What's My Name?)
23. Still D.R.E.
Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg at Coachella 2012