The energy was electric at SoFi Stadium on Sunday as the Los Angeles Rams took on the Cincinnati Bengals during Super Bowl LVI. Not only was The Big Game held in Los Angeles for the first time in 29 years, the Pepsi Halftime Show was also one of the most anticipated performances in years.
Boasting appearances from Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige, it’s the first time hip-hop—more specifically, gangster rap—has been so heavily represented during a mainstream televised sports event. Subsequently, ‘80s babies everywhere dug out their Nike Cortez sneakers and N.W.A sweatshirts to watch the historic event, while their mothers likely clutched their proverbial pearls. (But thankfully for anyone worried about another “wardrobe malfunction” àla Janet Jackson, Dr. Dre—who produced the roughly 15-minute show—had previously promised Eminem nor Snoop Dogg would “whip out their penises” during the show.)
With the Rams leading 13-10 going into the second half, Dr. Dre and company sauntered onto the field as organizers diligently prepared the stage. Right on schedule, Dr. Dre emerged from below the all-white set and took his post at the mixing board like a maestro. With an arial view of Los Angeles serving as the set’s foundation, several white low riders lined up in front and over 400 professional dancers and volunteer field cast participants, Snoop Dogg joined his longtime collaborator for a medley of hits, including “The Next Episode” from the 1999 Dr. Dre album 2001 and 1995’s “California Love” by the late Tupac Shakur that featured contributions from Dr. Dre, the late Nate Dogg and Roger Troutman from Zapp and Roger.
Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s camaraderie was palpable as Snoop Crip-walked across the stage with a giant smile slapped on his face, clearly happy to be back onstage with his mentor. After all, Dr. Dre introduced a young Snoop Dogg to the world in 1992 with a guest appearance on the iconic hip-hop classic “Deep Cover (187).” Thirty years later, seeing them come back together—especially when so many of their contemporaries are no longer alive— was enough to give any dedicated fan goosebumps.
As Snoop’s solo verse got underway, a photo of his mother Beverly Tate was prominently displayed in the background, adding a personal touch to the high-octane performance. Tate, who passed away last October, was very close to her son, and he’s paid tribute to her in nearly every event he’s done since her death.
But the crowd somehow roared even louder when 50 Cent, who was signed by Eminem in the early 2000s, surprised everyone with a performance of his 2003 multi-platinum hit “In Da Club.” Rocking a white tank top similar to the one he wore in the song’s video, the television mogul didn’t miss a beat—even rapping upside down.
R&B powerhouse Mary J. Blige and her pleasantly awkward dance moves then slid in with her 2001 hit “Family Affair” before Kendrick Lamar crawled out from whatever cave he’s been hiding in to perform a few seconds of 2013’s “m.A.A.d City” as well as “Alright” from 2015’s To Pimp A Butterfly surrounded by dozens of male dancers wearing “Dre Day” sashes.
But before the crowd could even digest what it’d just witnessed, Eminem—wearing his signature hoodie and gold chain (oh, and that beard)—crashed the stage with a snippet of “Forgot About Dre” before going into the Academy Award-winning single “Lose Yourself” from the 2002 8 Mile soundtrack. With Anderson .Paak on the drums, Eminem wisely rapped the lyrics that could have been custom-tailored for an event like the Super Bowl.
“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment,” he rapped. “You own it, you better never let it go/You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow/This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.”
As the show began to come to its ceremonious end, Dr. Dre took a seat at the white baby grand piano and played a few delicate notes before exploding into “Still D.R.E.” off the aforementioned 2001 album.
Something about Dr. Dre rapping he’s “still not loving police” on national television hit differently than it would have in concert. There, people at least expect to hear lyrics that might be possibly offensive but considering the socio-political climate in the United States and police brutality that continues to plague the Black community, it felt like a “moment,” especially when Eminem took a knee in honor of Colin Kaepernick. There was a time when hip-hop wouldn’t have been welcomed at the Super Bowl. There was a time when saying something like that on television never would have been allowed. Although it drew criticism from some conversative circles, the Super Bowl LVI Pepsi Halftime Show undoubtedly proved two things: hip-hop is the most popular music genre in the world and nobody’s forgotten about Dre .
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