Reading Response #1
At Coachella Music Festival 2012, the deceased West Coast rap icon, Tupac Shakur, was “raised from the grave” as he appeared on the stage and responded to the enormous audience with a stretch of his arms, as he was welcomed as a god. What left the fans at awe however was how was Tupac on stage when he was killed 16 years prior to this performance? This was made possible by holographic technology that projected Tupac on stage, which seemed very much realistic. Many of the spectators of this event saw this performance as away to celebrate the infamous Tupac’s life and a way to demonstrate their appreciation of his work and dedication that he put into rap music. Although this performance was intended to act as a way of honoring Tupac’s accomplishments, the use of a hologram to resemble the presence of the rapper is something that raises a great discussion. I will attempt to analyze this Coachella performance by applying subculturalism and transcendentalism to this revolutionary concert.
Subculturalism can be defined as “an approach to explore cultural relations as the articulation of common rules of group practice, and values that depart from, or are in outright antagonism with, the dominant order” (Rojek 78). Popular culture is a major part of society in which people pay attention to the way that you look, the way that you dress, and the things that you’re interested in. During the rapper’s prime, Tupac’s music was considered the hip-hop of the west coast. His music created a sense of subculturalism by placing certain characteristics and beliefs to his music and “west coast rap” music as a whole, like dress and values for example. During this performance, Tupac’s hologram performed Hail Mary, which was one of his most popular songs that described how he zoned out the negativity and violence that was appearing in his life. Projected on stage, the hologram was dressed in baggy pants, a chain, and a shirtless torso to reveal the rapper’s “Thug Life” tattoo. Although Tupac performed rap music and wore clothes that people associated with “thugs,” Tupac was actually not a thug, and claimed numerous times that he was misrepresented by the media as a “thug.” “Group identification is expressed behaviorally in a certain way of going about the world and adopting recognizable attitudes to culture, power, and authority” (Rojek 78). Although most people who attended Coachella were there for the various performances and not just the holographic Tupac performance, through subculturalism, it is believed that those who enjoy this type of music and his performance also like the subcultural values that are associated with it. Subculturalism in this sense is also influential because it has the ability to integrate people of different subcultures while also highlighting what makes the subcultures different (Rojek 79) . While the hologram was performing Gangster Party with Snoop Dogg, you could almost feel the chemistry between the two as if they were actually on stage together. On stage, Tupac even referred to the duo, as “two of America’s most wanted.” This sense of rebellion that the two artists embodied exemplified subculture in the performance by showing forms of “non-conformity to the dominant culture” (Rojek 79). By doing this, the artists made it seem ideal to not fit popular values and subculturalism is affirmed through this.
Transcendentalism refers to “the existence of creative realities located at the edge of sense experience” (Rojek 94). Therefore, superhuman forces are considered the reason that humanity has a dynamic impact on nature (Rojek 94). Transcendentalism is demonstrated in this Coachella performance because music is used to magnify the consciousness of this “superhuman” force. Through this perceived power that music possesses, we are able to witness a revolutionary performance from Tupac, who is no longer alive. The fact that this holographic technology has the ability to project the realistic image of this deceased rapper makes it appear to be a supernatural force that is making it possible for the rapper to appear on stage. Through transcendentalism, human beings are aware that there’s a higher power that exists beyond our world (Rojek 94). With the “resurrection” of Tupac for this performance, it is almost like because of how legendary this rapper is, a higher power gave him the ability to appear back on earth for this performance and many spectators even considered it an honor to be in the presence of this hologram . Relating back to subculturalism, “culture is a key instrument in achieving the fulfillment and unity of the human spirit,” (Rojek 95) which is brought through transcendentalism. Through the culture of this performance, it is almost as if the “spirit” of Tupac has achieved fulfillment and broke the boundaries placed between life and death. This further affirms how transcendentalism is affirmed through this performance.
Tupac’s music and this revolutionary performance play a large role in pop culture. His music was and still is listened to by millions of people and his music continues to influence many artists today. With subculturalism and transcendentalism, we are able to look at this performance in a much broader sense. Through his music he became a musical symbol of his generation and many generations to come. It is important that we understand that through agency, we can bring attention to the aesthetic that artist are trying to create through popular music.
While you erroneously paraphrase some of the tenets of subculturalism (see comments above) your use of transcendentalism in analysis of this performance is spot on. Good work!
Rojek, C. (2011). Chapter 4: Agency Approaches. In Pop Music, Pop Culture (pp. 78-95). Malden, MA: Polity Press.
Tupac Hologram Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre Perform Coachella Live 2012 [Video file]. (2012, April 17). In YouTube. Retrieved September 18, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGbrFmPBV0Y
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