Hip Hop DX Exclusive: Guerilla Union’s Chang Weisberg and Young Dirty Bastard speak on Rock the Bells’ holograms of Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Eazy-E.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s son Young Dirty Bastard and the family estate are in full support of Rock the Bells’ upcoming hologram of the late Wu-Tang Clan rapper. In separate exclusive interviews with HipHopDX, Young Dirty Bastard and Chang Weisberg explained why this will be “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“Icelene [Jones] and the estate are 100 percent onboard and we’ll be releasing a joint statement very soon,” Weisberg told HipHopDX on Tuesday (July 30). “I can tell you that they’re 100 percent on board and supportive as well as Cherry [Jones, Ol' Dirty Bastard's mother]. This has probably been the most positive experience for the entire family. That’s what’s going to separate the performance from anything that’s been done before because the family is going to be involved in the process, in the creation and the direction of this experience.”
This support comes after initial conflict between the parties. When Rock the Bells announced in May that it planned to include ODB in a virtual performance, the Ol’ Dirty Bastard estate was unhappy. It was reported that ODB’s estate filed a cease and desist to RTB’s organizers, Guerilla Union.
Chang Weisberg & Young Dirty Bastard On Working Together
“At first, when it was reported that I was issued a cease and desist, I was never issued a cease and desist at that point,” Weisberg said. “I was finally, many more weeks after that, contacted by the family, at which point they said that they had issued a cease and desist, but wanted to talk to us. It was more just protocol. I don’t think they knew who to contact. To be honest, I didn’t even know who Icelene Jones was and that’s no fault to any side. It’s just, in 10 years of dealing with Wu-Tang, I’ve always dealt with Cherry. That’s been mom. That’s all the members. She used to be Dirty’s manager. So, with that said, I still had the full endorsement of Cherry and of the group. Then, I come to find who the family members are and the controllers of the estate, which I was happy to. This was a good vetting out process and a needed dialogue began.”
Young Dirty told HipHopDX on Wednesday (July 30) that he just wanted to be involved in this process.
“Things have changed,” YDB said to HipHopDX. “Now Guerilla Union realizes that we just want to be a part of it. That’s all we wanted, me and the estate. We just wanted to be a part of the situation. We wouldn’t let something like that pass by. That’s a beautiful thing. The way things are right now, with me and Guerilla Union, we’re actually building a great relationship.”
This process has also allowed ODB’s family to come together, according to Weisberg.
“What’s awesome is that this particular family has been somewhat fragmented for many different reasons,” Weisberg said. “I will say that it’s because I announced the hologram that Cherry, Icelene, children, grandchildren…so many family members are really kind of putting down whatever issues they’ve had with each other to really focus on making this happen because they want to honor ODB, his legacy and what he has meant.”
Chang Weisberg Explains Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Family’s Involvement With Hologram
“We’re really working with the family members of Eazy-E and ODB to help create the actual performance,” Weisberg said. “I don’t want to get into the specifics of participating, but it’s pretty fucking awesome.”
Young Dirty Bastard said he will be involved and compared himself to a character in James Cameron’sAvatar motion picture.
“My involvement with the performance is very, very alike, a-alike,” Dirty said. “I basically camouflage. I’m blending in. I camouflage with it…When I first heard about it, it was like, ‘I’m about to be an avatar.’ You know? On a James Cameron level. That’s what we gon’ bring to the world. No one has ever seen it on this level and it’s going to be the best.”
The involvement of families has made this an important process for Weisberg, who said it is “the most compelling and interesting thing” he’s been involved with in 10 years of organizing Rock the Bells.
“The actual DNA of the performance will have their DNA in it, which is unlike anything I believe has been done at this point with this type of experience,” Weisberg said. “It’s pretty serious. I think people assume [family members] will consult, but when it’s all said and done, the DNA of the family is going to be in the performance in such a way that is so beautiful and incredible that I want to share more. We’ve been documenting this, photographing it, and by far it’s the most compelling and interesting thing I’ve been involved in with Rock The Bells because it’s so different and feels so much more important. It’s not about what the fans want and it’s not about what I want. It’s about what [family members] want and that’s what’s awesome.”
Young Dirty Bastard Says This Performance Will Be “Emotional”
Young Dirty Bastard has performed with Wu-Tang Clan before, but he said this will be different.
“That was a lot of energy, skill and fun,” YDB said of previous performances. “This one’s going to be more emotional because we’re bringing something back, back to life. Nobody could do that with mankind. Nobody could do that.”
Young Dirty Bastard also said he will be be “mixed” with the latest advances in technology.
“Right now, my skill is mixed with the latest technology,” Young Dirty Bastard said. “It’s pretty dope. We fused. My skill is mixed with the latest technology…This is only a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Chang Weisberg Explains Technical Aspects Of Holograms At Rock The Bells
During initial announcements, Weisberg hesitated to use the term “hologram.” Now, he says he is more comfortable with the term.
“The technical definition of a hologram requires glass and refractions and projections of a sort that I can’t describe in laymen’s terms,” Weisberg said. “A true hologram is not what we’re doing. What we’re going to be creating with these virtual performances is what looks like a hologram…I will tell you that we are leveraging at the highest level, very creative and artistic 3-D recreations, that we are leveraging video and motion capture and projection and multi-media, to project hologram-like performances on stage. I can tell you there is video and audio, and that video and audio will be authentic to the point of family members being involved. There are several animators and several computer programmers and several audio and video technicians that are all coming together to create this effect. When I hear hologram, I’m confortable with it so people can understand. I think I can call it a hologram and I don’t think anyone can disqualify me from that. If they went be very technical terms, I’ve said it’s a virtual performance, a virtual performance that will look and feel like a hologram but will be so much more because of the circumstances of what’s happening at the show, who was involved and the moment.”
Chang Weisberg Explains Involvement From Wu-Tang Clan & Bone Thugs-n-Harmony
Wu-Tang Clan and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony members will have to be involved in this process in various ways at different times, said Weisberg.
“As difficult as virtual performances can be to create and execute, I still have to get eight members of Wu-Tang Clan together,” Weisberg said. “That hasn’t gotten any easier at all. I’m just hoping out of sheer respect for the families and ODB, these guys make it a little easier on me. It’s going to require a little bit of rehearsal. It’s going to require a lot of attention, and it’s going to be unlike any Wu-Tang performance ever and since. Same with Bone. Bone has been a little bit easier to deal with because they are all here in the States right now and I’m interfacing with RZA and Divine and they’re overseas. I’m definitely dealing ODB’s estate and the family here, which for the time being is all we really need. Come a week before the show is when I need all the help and grace and patience in the world to put the final finishing touches to make it what I hope to be, one of the more historic performances at our show.”
Chang Weisberg Anticipates Backlash From Fans, Says It Motivates Him
News of the holograms somewhat overshadowed other acts on the bill, Weisberg said. This was something that worried him.
“You were there that night,” Weisberg said of the press conference where the holograms were initially announced. “No one wanted to talk about [Kid] Cudi and Indicud, or [ScHoolboy Q's] Oxymoron and Black Hippy. It was hard to get people to talk about Tech N9ne’s new record. Here I am, excited about all the music that is on the bill, but then it was like, I’m not use to talking to TMZ or Wired Magazine or CNN. It took off, the hologram thing. To me, I got really nervous about how it diminished everything else that the festival stood for.
“Then, I go online,” Weisberg said. “I check out what’s happening, I know we got trolls on [Rock the Bells'] Facebook [page] (laughs). There are a lot of strong opinions out there and people are entitled to them. I don’t censor our social media. A lot of people were like, ‘Oh, man Rock the Bells is over! Now you got nothing left to do other than desecrate the legacies of these amazing people! Let them rest in peace!’ You know what? They actually gave me more motivation to get it done because I understand that perspective. If I didn’t know any better, I might actually be a troll on our website saying the same thing, kind of being a hater. But knowing what I know now, knowing how the families feel about it and how careful everyone has been and conscious to the process of what we’re going to pull off, I’m of the mindset now that there is nothing more important in the world to accomplish than to get this done.
“It’s a part of the show, like I said, having two-thirds of the artists have new music to support is usually reason enough for me, but when I start seeing things on TMZ and people joke about it in a way because they don’t know what to expect,” Weisberg continued. “When you don’t have knowledge of something, you have a tendency to downplay it and make a joke of it. It was, ‘Oh great, 2013 is going to be the year of the hologram,’ and I get that. This is the future of entertainment and it’s so much bigger than Hip Hop and the way that we are going to utilize it, it’s so awesome and inspiring just because what I’ve gone through in the last couple of weeks. At first I got real nervous about it after seeing fan reactions and press reactions to it, but now I know, I can give a shit to what everybody else thinks because I know that we’re doing the right thing.”
Chang Weisberg Says Eaze-E’s Widow Tomica Wright Has Become His Mentor
Eazy-E’s family is fully supporting this as well, Weisberg said. At this year’s press conference, Wright sat beside Weisberg. Now, the two have grown closer through this process.
“Tomica, she has been one of the biggest blessings ever,” Weisberg said. “Not only has she been great working on this process, but she can relate to half the shit I go through on a daily basis. She has become one of my new mentors.”
Wright has been working on every detail and fabric of these performances for Eazy,” said Weisberg.
Chang Weisberg Says He Will Hug Icelene Jones When They Meet
Weisberg’s relationship with Icelene Jones has also progressed, he said.
“We all know that the last thing that is out there publicly is that Icelene sent a cease and desist to Rock the Bells and I want to say that to this day, I still have not met Icelene, but that day is coming soon,” Weisberg said. “I know there is nothing but hugs and kisses coming and I know that she is very thankful for all the other work and diligence that’s been done.”
Having the families of Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Eazy E approve the virtual performances is important to him, Weisberg told HipHopDX on May 14.
“I can confidently tell you that I have spoken with RZA and Cherry Jones and Divine, who is RZA’s brother, who helps manage Wu-Tang Clan,” Weisberg said at the time. “I’ve talked to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Tomica Wright. I shared with them the vision and the knowledge and it was after those discussions that they entrusted me with the responsibility.”
ODB’s widow, Icelene Jones, spoke against this virtual performance soon after this announcement was made. “I’m the administrator [of ODB's estate] and the only authority to give anyone permission to do anything like this-any likeness, any music,” Jones told HipHopDX in a report published on May 17. “They need to come to me. I’m so available. I’m accessible. I’m easy to contact. I just want to make that understood. I’m a nice person. It’s just that people are doing things without my knowledge.”
Young Dirty Bastard, ODB’s son, said the family wanted control.
“We want all of the control,” he said to HipHopDX in May. “I would love to see the contract with the paper on it. The money, that’s big business. We talking about money, that’s capitalization. We definitely want full control and authority over that.”
Rock the Bells is scheduled to start in Los Angeles on what would have been Eazy-E’s 50th birthday, September 7, and continue on September 8. It is slated to hit San Francisco (September 14 and 15), Washington D.C. (September 28 and 29) and New York (October 4 and 5). The festival is also scheduled to feature performances from Kid Cudi, Black Hippy, J. Cole, Jurassic 5 and Tech N9ne, among others.
by ANDRES TARDIO @HipHopDX