*The hip-hop festival Rock the Bells kicked off its 10th anniversary run in San Bernardino, Calif. Saturday with two performances from beyond the grave.
The late rappers Eazy-E and Ol’ Dirty Bastard materialized in hologram-like form at San Manuel Amphitheater, joining a lineup of more than 60 acts on a bill that included veterans and newcomers such as Common, Jurassic 5, J. Cole and Kid Cudi, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The hologram performances introduced the two revered greats — Eazy-E from N.W.A. fame, ODB from the Wu Tang Clan — to a new generation of rap fans. The younger concertgoers stood next to the older brothers and fathers who introduced them to the genre, the Times reported.
Per the Los Angeles Times:
As the lights dimmed midway through Cleveland rap posse Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s set Saturday, a lighting rig lowered onto the stage and, to the tune of 1988’s “We Want Eazy,” the rap legend was beamed onto a well-hidden screen set up on an elevated platform in the middle of the stage.
Clad in his signature Dickies and Compton hat, Eazy shuffled through “Straight Outta Compton” and “Boyz in Da Hood” and was joined by Bone Thugs for “Foe Tha Love of $.”
“What’s up, my thugs,” Eazy asked, albeit much more profanely, as the audience was aglow with thousands of smartphones documenting the moment. Many people appeared awestruck at the “ghost” that sauntered slowly across stage, often stopping to address the audience with prerecorded banter.
Meanwhile, the new technology didn’t work so well during Wu-Tang Clan’s headlining set Sunday night. Their peformance was plagued with sound problems, according to a review from website Fuse.tv :
When two minutes of no music became five, the [Method Man] became agitated. “Two more minutes and I’m walking out of here, hologram or not,” he said. “I’m tired of this sh-t. This sh-t doesn’t happen at rock and roll concerts.” It didn’t help that every other member stood around and didn’t offer to freestyle, ad lib or kick an a cappella of one of hundreds of Wu songs.
After 10 excruciating, awkward minutes, the sound returned and Wu-Tang gamely tried to move forward. But 30 seconds into the next song, the group, and crowd, realized the tempos were off and the vibe soured irrevocably. “I’m f-ckin’ done with this speeding up and slowing down sh-t. This some bullsh-t, Chang,” said Method Man, calling out Rock the Bells founder Chang Weisberg.
RZA tried to pacify the situation, invoking the spirit of ODB and telling Meth, and the crowd, “It don’t got nothing to do with Chang.” With DJ Mathematics scrambling to solve the sound issue, workers hustled to set up the hologram, presumably meant for the end of the set. What was supposed to be the centerpiece of the festival after months of hype and curiosity was now being prepped as a virtual seat-filler.
With the riser cleared and ready for virtual ODB to perform, RZA was forced to ad lib while technicians tried to activate the hologram. After leading repeated chants of “Ol Dirty Bastard,” RZA announced, “That sound loud, Chang. I think they want to do it, eh?” He sounded like an elementary school drama teacher salvaging a play after a kid accidentally knocked down all the scenery. By the time the ODB hologram appears to perform Wu-Tang’s “Shame on a N-gga,” it was the hip hop equivalent of Spinal Tap’s Stonehenge incident.
With ODB’s and Eazy-E’s “appearances,” festival organizers were taking cues from last year’s Coachella, where Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg performed with a video projection of slain West Coast superstar Tupac Shakur.