90’s hip-hop heavyweights take over Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show

Was this one of the greatest halftime shows of all time, or did the performance come up short?


The six stars on stage at Super Bowl LVI (Ronald Martinez/The New Yorker)

As one of the most anticipated days of the year for sports fans, the Super Bowl captivates the attention of more than 100 million viewers worldwide. Not only did the 2021 NFL campaign end with a great battle for the prized Lombardi trophy, but the event featured an electric halftime show composed of award-winning, legendary stars throughout the music industry.

On Sunday, Feb. 13, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, and Mary J. Blige sent the crowd at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, California into an absolute frenzy with a 15-minute concert worthy of the biggest stage. With recent halftime performances over the years starring artists such as The Weeknd, Maroon 5, and Lady Gaga, this year’s show took its own path, as the group of six paid tribute to the genre of hip-hop, which has dominantly run the charts over the past 20 years.  

Dr. Dre’s spirit was immediately felt as he was slowly revealed once the stage fully transformed into a white set, with a radio box and popular sights around Los Angeles built as platforms for the performers. Alongside his longtime friend, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre opened the show with the duo’s hit single, “The Next Episode” from 2001, bringing the energy from the start. The two switched back and forth in the spotlight, allowing each other to show off their own rapping skills and excite the audience. 

Next up, 50 Cent made an unexpected appearance at the Super Bowl with his song, “In Da Club”. With a diamond chain and “50” gem wrapped around his neck, 50 Cent certainly made sure that his flashy appearance was visible, which might have made up for his lack of stage presence. If it weren’t for a sea of background dancers catching the eye of the viewer, this segment would have been one to forget. 

Standing at the highest point of the stage, Mary J. Blige quickly revved up the pace, performing her famous tune “Family Affair” dressed in all silver and sequin patterns. As the only woman in the lineup, Blige succeeded by speaking to her girl-boss fans in a powerful way. She even took the opportunity to control the stage with her original “No More Drama,” which showed her strength and dramatic demeanor.

Mary J. Blige performing “No More Drama” (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images / POPSUGAR)

As if he couldn’t be any more iconic, Kendrick Lamar seized his invitation to the show and made his voice heard. The 13-time Grammy Award winner sang “Alright,” speaking towards the Black Lives Matter movement, while immersed in a swarm of dancers in black suits with sashes labeled “Dre Day”. Lamar simply looked like he was enjoying himself, yet at the same time was able to stress the importance of a cause that is extremely important to him and other black figures in pop culture. 

Eminem’s performance was easily my favorite from the entire show. His Oscar-winning title “Lose Yourself” is so lively and catchy that you cannot sing along to it every time. The rapper, who showed off his impeccable style with his clean Air Jordans, was joined by a band that included Anderson .Paak, who made the song so much better and intensified the crowd’s noise. It was the perfect selection by Eminem for one of the biggest games in sports. 

The six headliners joined each other at the top of the stage with a rendition of Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E,” ending the prolific show in stunning fashion. Surrounding the stage, break dancers dressed in baggy, beige shirts and pants and black Converse embodied the spirit of the final song. “It’s the D.R.E” was the last lyric of the night, which all six artists said in unison, honoring Dr. Dre for his phenomenal career and his work with each of the performers in their rise to fame. 

The Rams’ Super Bowl victory over the Cincinnati Bengals was not the only win for the city of Los Angeles, as this year’s halftime show was a pure celebration of black greatness and West Coast rap. Three of the performers – Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar – are California natives, which makes this performance so symbolic and fitting.

In addition, the NFL’s decision to feature a hip-hop centered show was long overdue, with league executives finally allowing highly-successful people of color to share their talents with the world amongst an array of racial issues plaguing professional football. Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores recently filed a lawsuit against the league for discriminatory practices, through which he accused team owners of not hiring him in the past due to his racial identity.

After his performance, Eminem took a knee and bowed his head in recognition of Colin Kaepernick’s position against police brutality. Also, Dr. Dre’s decision to leave out a few lyrics that talked about negative opinions of law enforcement may have been done to avoid confrontation with the NFL. As a whole, Super Bowl LVI’s Halftime Show exceeded my initial expectations. The six performers shared so much chemistry between each other, which made for an amazing spectacle dedicated to a generation of musical royalty.

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