Chief Keef’s Hologram and the Future of Virtual Legality


This July, Mayors Rahm Emanuel and Thomas McDermott Jr. of Chicago and Hammond, Ind., respectively, may have set a precedent for the treatment of virtual reality in the legal system.

Mayor McDermott made the decision to shut down a performance by rapper Chief Keef at Craze Music Festival in Hammond, Ind.

The impetus for the mayor’s decision was never completely clarified, though Mayor McDermott seemed to say Keef’s support of gangs and gang violence played a role.

McDermott also noted that, because the artist was banned in Chicago, Hammond, Ind., would be subverting the authority of Mayor Emanuel by allowing the hologram to perform just across the Illinois border.

Keef, whose real name is Keith Cozart, is a native of Chicago’s south side and has outstanding warrants in Illinois for missing child support payments. Though Keef is banned from performing in person, shutting down a performance by his hologram assumes his image is enough to constitute a dangerous presence.

Can You Arrest A Hologram?

But what does banning a hologram mean for the future of virtual reality or the very legality of someone’s image?

Mayors Emanuel and McDermott argued that an interactive three-dimensional presence of a “dangerous” person could contain enough substance to ban them.  

Concert-goers seem content with paying equally for holograms and physically present humans; perhaps value makes the virtual presence more “real.”

Keef’s performance, like many hologram performances, was pre-recorded in Los Angeles and, aside from a three-dimensional appearance, was the equivalent of a set-long music video.

As far as we know, the City of Chicago has no policy banning Keef’s music on the airwaves or music videos on streaming services: only his physical, legal body is covered by warrant.

Mayors Emanuel and McDermott seem out of step with what constitutes a person, but perhaps their decision to unplug the hologram might be used to set a precedent for defining the reach of a person’s physical presence beyond their physical body.

Perhaps they are viewing the situation as an extension of cyberbullying, but it seems a stretch to compare a pre-recorded hologram performance taking place in Indiana–where Chief Keef is legally able to perform–to bullying.

Did the legal human body just grow another appendage?

In the last few years, hologram technology has been used to bring Sinatra, Eazy-E, Michael Jackson, Elvis and Tupac back to life (provided you believe the last two truly died to begin with).

None of those performances have been shut down despite a clear ban on raising the dead in the lower forty-eight. 

Perhaps it is the fact that Keef is still living and therefore more “present” in the hologram. It is also important to note that the holograms of the dead could be considered more artwork than scanned image.


Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm that crafts transformational digital experiences to delight users and deliver sustainable competitive market advantages for our clients.


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