Since the Tupac hologram debuted at Coachella last year, reaction has been mixed, to say the least. But when the virtual Eazy and Ol' Dirty Bastard take the stage at Rock the Bells, as announced last night in L.A., it will be with the full support of their families.
"Last night was the first time I saw it, and to me, it was so wonderful to stand by him again," ODB's mother, Cherry Jones, told Rolling Stone. "I don't know how I'm going to react – they'll have to carry me off. But I think it's amazing. I want to sing with it."
Tomica Wright, widow of Eazy-E, is excited to have a new audience of fans see her late husband onstage again, in performance with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. "To have old generations, new generations be able to experience that chemistry between ODB and Eazy and Bones – you see it on video, you see it on the Internet, but to feel it and have that sense of presence is a great experience," she said. "It's a great milestone and one, for me personally, as a friend, a family member and also knowing that his children, maybe some of his grandchildren and people who have idolized from a distance and never had that experience are able to experience a portion of that, is a great thing."
Jones seconded that enthusiasm, sharing Wright's excitement about new fans seeing her son onstage (with Wu-Tang Clan): "This keeps the artists alive. Dirty was a great artist onstage. This is going to be something else, because he was really great onstage," she said. "I just want to see the look on his sister and brother's face, his children, grandchildren . . . I can't wait."
This is the 10th anniversary of Rock the Bells, which started in 2004 in San Bernardino with a reunited Wu-Tang Clan (including ODB) onstage. In those 10 years RTB, under the auspices of Guerilla Union and CEO Chang Weisberg, has become the biggest hip-hop festival, with performances by acts ranging from Nas and Snoop Dogg to Lauryn Hill, A Tribe Called Quest and more. Wright has watched the festival grow, and she feels it is the perfect forum for these performances.
"Looking at the professionalism of Chang's team and how long they sustained and they continue to carry the integrity of this music, the integrity of the artists and keep it moving and viable in a safe atmosphere – it's going to be a great experience," she said. "The Coachella crowd, their attachment is awe, but this crowd, we are a product of that environment – we follow it, it's our life, it's our lifestyle, and we carry it on day in and day out. To be a part of that experience, it's motivating. It gives you more dreams and aspirations to carry it on further, so this is a stepping stone to the next level."
The 2Pac hologram was used only twice, at both weekends of Coachella 2012. Will the Eazy and ODB holograms be reserved strictly for the four announced Rock the Bells dates, or will they have virtual life after the festival wraps up in New Jersey on October 4th and 5th?
According to Wright, the avatars will be used going forward, but very exclusively: "selectively, in the proper form and setting, and not over-exploiting it. That's what keeps it grassroots, that's what keeps it authentic. So this is the perfect setting because it's nostalgic – it's bringing back someone that's opened doors, both ODB and Eazy-E," she said. "It has to be the right place in the right form."