SAN BERNARDINO -- “I can’t hear ya’ll. Are ya’ll ready for this ...” N.W.A’s DJ Yella asked the thousands that packed into mainstage for the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony set Saturday night.
The crowd knew what was coming: Fallen N.W.A founder Eazy-E was about to make his grand entrance to “perform” again.
Yet the packed audience waited with baited breath from the very moment the Cleveland rap crew took the stage as darkness – and an incredibly welcomed breeze – swept over opening night.
Bone Thugs, who reunited for the occasion despite long documented internal strife, had already mostly tore through a set filled with durable tracks from their deep catalog when their special guest was ready to make his debut.
The anticipation was heavy for Eazy’s comeback on Saturday, courtesy of a hologram-like likeness.
It was impossible to traverse a slice of the lush festival land without spotting an image of the rapper, who died on 1995, emblazoned on festival-goers chests – Compton snap-back hats, his most iconic image, were a close second favorite.
And his “hologram” was the chatter of festival-goers throughout the day.
What would it look like? What would it “perform”? Would Eazy be close to the eerie likeness of Tupac Shakur that instantly became a viral sensation after its Coachella performance last year?
As the lights lowered, a lighting rig lowered onto the stage as Bone Thugs cleared out for their mentor’s big arrival.
To the tune of 1988’s “We Want Eazy,” the rap legend was beamed onto a barely visible screen set up on an elevated platform in the middle of the stage.
“What’s up my thugs,” Eazy asked, albeit much more profanely, as the audience was aglow with thousands of smartphones documenting the moment – many appeared awe-struck at the ghost that sauntered slowly across stage, often stopping to address the audience with pre-recorded banter.
Clad in his signature Dickies and Compton hat, Eazy shuffled through "Straight Outta Compton," "Boyz in da Hood" and was joined by Bone Thugs for "Foe tha Love of $.”
Although comprised of his offspring -- kids Eric "Lil Eazy-E" Wright Jr., Derrick "E3" Wright and Erin Wright comprised the body, voice and face, respectively -- the hologram felt like the voice and image that's long been ingrained in rap fan's minds.
Hologram Eazy, as we'll call him, did however feel noticeably disproportionate in comparison to his protégés onstage, not that the audience seemed to care judging from the applause, bewildered expresses that dotted the crowd and the audible gasps that rang out.
Unlike Tupac, who danced and felt like he dropped in from the heavens to join Dr. Dre and Snoop, Eazy oddly felt stationary -- considering the contraption that lowered over the stage and the placement of Bone Thugs' members beside and below the illusion.
The late rapper would have turned 50 on Saturday (another eerie fact is that Sept. 7 is also the day Tupac was mortally wounded in a drive-by shooting), and his hologram had the sort of swagger you’d expect from an agile, but probably retired, emcee who threw in the towel on gangster wrap, long before his age would have determined he was possibly past his prime. We'll never know, though.
Eazy’s “virtual performance,” as it was billed by the festival, is one of two hologram-like images that bookend the festival’s 10th outing. Wu-Tang Clan’s boisterous member, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, will also get the digital treatment on Sunday to close the festival.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times