We Spoke to the Creator of the Chief Keef Hologram That Was Banned from Performing in Illinois

By projecting his hologram from California to Chicago, Keef was performing without triggering local arrest warrants. Almost.

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27 July 2015, 5:16pm

On Saturday night, a digital projected hologram of Chicago rapper Chief Keef was scheduled to perform at Craze Fest, a Stateside rap festival in Hammond, Illinois. However, only one minute into the performance, police and security stormed the stage and shut down the performance, citing wishes from the Mayor. Whether they tried to stick handcuffs on the 2D hologram before it was switched off, we just don’t know.

The Chief Keef hologram show was originally supposed to take place a week prior in a Chicago theater, but the show was cancelled due to statements made by the office of Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, about how Keef was “an unacceptable role model,” who “promotes violence.” Even his digital projection supposedly “posed a significant public safety risk.”

Despite the show in Hammond being a “Stop The Killing” benefit event for a fellow rapper and child who died at the scene of a shooting this month, despite Keef not physically being there, and despite the first words from the hologram being “Chicago, we need to stop the violence. Let our kids live,” police still deemed it too dangerous to go on beyond minute one.

The Mayor of Hammond echoed the statements of Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, but with a much weaker rap knowledge. “I know nothing about Chief Keef,” he admitted in an interview over the weekend, “All I’d heard was he has a lot of songs about gangs and shooting people - a history that’s anti-cop, pro-gang and pro-drug use. He’s been basically outlawed in Chicago, and we’re not going to let you circumvent Mayor Emanuel by going next door.”

A still from footage provided by Alki, taken by those on stage

It’s a freaky development in the growth of holograms in popular culture, that one could be deemed threatening enough for a show to be shut down, and a bizarre new chapter in Chief Keef’s relationship with Chicago, where it seems he is not only physically prohibited, but the very idea of him has seemingly become a taboo subject.

The whole thing has also inadvertently brought to light a new motivation for hologram technology. Keef was reluctant to play the Midwest because of outstanding warrants for his arrest related to two child support cases. Holograms have already been pretty damn impressive in bringing stars back from the dead, but the notion of a rapper projecting his hologram into states where he is wanted for arrest is the kind of super futuristic law defying shit that would get William Gibson so hyped, he’d need to put a small cushion on his lap to save embarrassment.

If performers can project into places they can’t visit, what about projecting out from places they can’t leave? Could we have a Vybz Kartel hologram performing shows direct from his prison cell in 2016? We got in touch with Alki David, the founder of Hologram USA, responsible for the Chief Keef project, to ask about what happened, why it was a dick move to shut it down, his plans for a Gucci Mane hologram, and loads of other dumb blue sky questions about the future.

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Hi Alki. When did you first start working with Chief Keef?
Alki: About six months ago. I met him through a couple of guys who work for me. He’s got a great following and we’re quite kindred spirits in many ways. He loves the hologram technology, and he’s a modern contemporary artist. He’s the number one hip-hop artist of his generation, so incorporating the hologram technology off the back of, say, Tupac, is something that certainly appeals to him. We’re going to be using it a lot more and in a much bigger way than just a festival in Hammond, Illinois.

Was this his first time then?
Yeah, this was Keef’s first experience of being projected, and he loved it. It was beyond his expectations. So we’re going to do a lot more of it. You watch: Chief Keef is going to become the hologram hip-hop guy.

How did it work on the night?
He was in a studio in California, and we projected him from there, live to the stage. He can also see and hear the crowd in real time.

How much prior warning were you given that the police were going to shut the show down?
None. They literally attacked us. 20 police cars came. They bulldozed on stage, and grabbed stuff. Here's a video which contains some footage:

Please enable Javascript to watch this video


Did you even have an inkling something might happen with the authorities?
We knew by the afternoon that the police were going to try it on. We tried to mislead them by giving off an incorrect location. But, even then, I thought that once it got underway, and they saw that people weren’t dying in droves, they would just let it happen. But no, they stopped it. Which was stupid, and indicative of why there are so many problems in the inner city.

By banning a hologram, it feels like they are not only banning Chief Keef as an artist, but also the idea of him. Which is weird.
They are banning the idea of freedom of speech from the inner city. It’s not just him, it’s everything about him, and everything he represents. He is the youth culture in that area. He is a voice. If you’re squashing that voice, then you are squashing the voice of the inner city youth, period.

Do you think the hologram appearance confused them authorities and then they shut it down impulsively without really thinking?
I don’t think it’s anything to do with them not understanding the technology, I think it’s just them being stupid. They are motivated by their own political self interests. The mayors, they need to keep white America content. They need to please their electorate.

So you feel like it was a rash decision to close the show down one minute in?
Of course! The mayor’s argument of it being dangerous was either ill advised or just an excuse, a political excuse. If someone is psychotic enough to start shooting firearms at an electronic device, a hologram, then you have real social problems in your area, which have nothing to do with a Chief Keef show. Keef did not create the violence in Chicago. He may have written three gang banger orientated songs, but that’s the extent of it. They are just using him as an excuse.

Banning a hologram opens up strange legal ground, considering it’s essentially just some live video right?
The hologram is just a video image. What’s happened here is the equivalent of taking a big TV, putting it at a festival in Hammond, and Chief Keef appearing on it, then the police turn up and shut the TV down.

With regards to the technology itself, projecting Keef to somewhere where he wasn’t by law allowed to be presents an interesting new use for holograms. Can you see a future for this? Like beaming people to places that they aren’t allowed or are deemed too dangerous?
We transmitted Julian Assange live from the Ecuadorian Embassy to the Nantucket Project in Massachussetts. He would be arrested if he set foot in the states obviously, so the use of the technology is great because you can project a live representation of your image to these places, to anywhere in the world.

Stretch your imagination here, but could you ever see a musician performing via projected hologram from, say, their prison cell?
We are actually working on that for Keef and a friend of his Gucci Mane.

Holy shit.

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