Tupac & Biggie Are Being Impersonated By An AI Chatbot
It has been more than a quarter-century since Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls passed. Both Rap legends made an indelible mark on Hip-Hop in their short careers. Long after their tragic deaths (six months apart in 1996 and 1997, respectively), music and art continue to flourish from both slain legends.
In the last decade, Tupac’s voice played a prominent role on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. This came in the form of a conversation that was produced between Pac and the artist who—as a child—watched the “California Love” music video be filmed in his home city of Compton, California. The display showed the power that Shakur had on one of the top voices in Hip-Hop since his passing. In 2017, Rhino Records released The King & I, a collection of material by Biggie and the mother of his children, Faith Evans. The LP was said to be the last of the music from Biggie’s vaults, following 1999’s Born Again, and others.
In 2012, a Tupac hologram was created for Coachella. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg used the artificial imaging of Tupac, who was signed to Death Row Records, a label co-created by Dre (and now owned by Snoop) in the year before his death. That usage and technology sparked debate among fans. In 2016, a Biggie hologram was said to be in development, with blessings from Christopher Wallace’s family, as technologically-generated images of Wu-Tang Clan member O.D.B. and Eazy-E had also been used in concerts.
Fans may have a new reason to be upset. Earlier this month, an educational app called Historical Figures launched. It has technology that allows app users to chat with more than 20,000 artificial intelligence-created people throughout history. While Historical Figures has made headlines by making genocidal dictators and leaders within hate groups among its range of characters, it also includes Hip-Hop legends. The app was created by 25-year-old Amazon engineer Sidhant Chadda, who is the developer credited in Apple’s app store. NBC News confirmed that an Amazon tech professional is behind Historical Figures.
A Boxden user (“Love Everyone”) posted what they say is an excerpt of the exchange with the Biggie Smalls bot. “It’s been a few years since his passing and I miss him every day but he lives on through his music,” the AI Biggie posted when asked about its feelings towards Tupac. “Pac was one of the hardest working guys [in] the Rap game, he put out classics like ‘Changes’ and ‘Dear Mama’ that will never be forgotten. We had similar upbringings so I always felt a kinship with him and strived to do my best in honor of him. That’s real talk.”
With there have been substantial reports that perhaps Tupac and Biggie may have verbally squashed their beef in mid-1996, the excerpt references a song that was released after both men died: “Changes.” In that same exchange at Boxden, the Biggie bot tells the user about transitioning from his days of “hustling” to winning Grammy Awards. The Notorious B.I.G. has never won a Grammy Award, despite four official nominations. If what the Boxden user posted is correct, the bot provided false information.
This Historical Figures development comes in the midst of a clash between artificial intelligence and Hip-Hop. In August, Capitol Records signed a bot, FN Meka. The deal followed TikTok success, after Meka had achieved over 10 million followers.
“As a bot, FN Meka leans into caricature and stereotypes. Green hair, a nose ring, braids, and face tattoos, while an appearance not unlike an XXXTentacion, 6ix9ine, or Lil Pump, takes cultural appropriation to the virtual world,” Ambrosia For Heads wrote at the time. “In the opinions of creators and an 80-year-old record label, this is what a Rap artist looks like.” The virtual artist also used the N-word and other slurs in lyrics, while presumably occupying resources and attention previously devoted to Black and Brown artists.
Within days, after public outcry and pressure from activist groups, Capitol abruptly severed ties with Fn Meka and its creators.
In April, Menace II Society director Allen Hughes will be airing his Dear Mama docuseries on FX and Hulu. Earlier this week, Air Jordan released a Biggie collaboration shoe in conjunction with Hip-Hop’s 50th anniversary.
#BonusBeat: Find plenty of dope Hip-Hop songs made by actual humans (including artists who worked with Biggie and Tupac) on the “art-official” Ambrosia For Heads playlist: