The hologram of Tupac Shakur that appeared alongside Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg during their headlining set at Coachella on Sunday night (Apr. 15) has provoked mixed reactions, but Nas -- who discusses his relationship with Tupac on his "Behind The Music" VH1 special that premieres on Wednesday night -- says that he was blown away by the visual stunt.
"Tupac has almost become Elvis, where people still think he's alive, so the hologram thing I thought was genius of Dr. Dre and Snoop," the veteran MC tells Billboard.com. "It just shows you how amazing Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg are, and how they hard they're riding for their West Coast brother Tupac, in the name of hip-hop music. I thought it was a great look for hip-hop as a whole -- it stepped hip-hop up a notch. And it was also revolutionary on a performance scale."
Nas wasn't always close with Tupac Shakur: the New York rapper once engaged in a war of words with the Oakland native, and in his "Behind The Music" special, Nas describes how he and Tupac nearly came to blows during an awards show after-party in New York's Bryant Park. The pair later made amends, and Nas was supposed to meet with Tupac in Las Vegas on the weekend that he died in September 1996.
"I'm honored to have been a part of his life, even though at one point it wasn't all good," says Nas of Tupac, who was killed at 25 years old. "It's just a beautiful thing, and in the 'Behind The Music' we share one of the moments between me and Pac that wasn't the best times, but it's still a real story about us seeing each other right before he passed away. At first we didn't know if there was beef or not, but it seemed like there was gonna be beef. Like, me and Pac could have died in Bryant Park that night. It was that bad. It wasn't his time, and it wasn't my time. But that's how serious Bryant Park was, and you get a piece of that in 'Behind The Music.'"
During Sunday's Coachella performance, a re-creation of Tupac interacted with Snoop Dogg and the Coachella crowd, and performed two songs, "Hail Mary" and "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted," before disintegrating into a million fragments of light. The spectacle was the first of its kind at a general admission hip-hop show, and Nas thinks that the Tupac hologram is only the beginning.
"It's a historic thing that they did it, but I think that technology will get better and we'll find new ways of doing it," he says. "I think someone had to do it first, and who better than Dre to make a hologram of Tupac? Hip-hop shows are becoming bigger and bigger by the day, and I think as times goes on, it can be done in a way where everyone's happy -- where it's not just creepy, where you don't know how you feel about it. The first time it's done, it's the first time, so that's the experience we're having. Some people don't like it, some are gonna be creeped out by it, but all of those reactions are great."
For Nas, the hologram was a reminder of the fallen rapper's cultural significance. And who better than West Coast legends Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg -- who are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Dre's "The Chronic" later this year -- to herald that message? "It makes sense that Dre and Snoop would bring him out -- they are kings in the hip-hop business, and they prove it time and time again," says Nas. "That's what it's all about. We love Tupac, the world loves Tupac, and he's one of the greatest hip-hop artists who ever lived. He deserves that, to be celebrated like that and remembered like that."