The Super Bowl, as we all know, is practically a national holiday and this year was no exception. Downtown Los Angeles was on full festival mode all weekend, starting days before, in fact, when the Crypto.com Arena (horrible name, it was previously the Staples Center and that was bad enough) hosted concerts by Halsey and Machine Gun Kelly, Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton on Friday, and Miley Cyrus and Green Day on Saturday.
Mickey Guyton, a Nashville based country singer, opened up for Gwen and Blake, and then sang the National Anthem at the main event. This writer was there at the Crypto (let’s just call it that), Guyton is a great talent and an enjoyable performer, if you can stomach all of the forced patriotism. She has a song called “All American” (“we’re aaaaaalllllllllllll American”) which is nice enough, if factually inaccurate in an arena full of people.
The halftime show, inarguably one of the musical spectacles of the year, was important. After what seemed like years of classic rock giants (Springsteen, Tom Petty, The Who, The Stones), pop and R&B took over for the past ten years with Madonna, Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Shakira, and J.Lo.
But besides a couple of guest appearances, hip-hop has not been given the biggest of spotlights. You could make the argument that plenty of other genres haven’t been given the spotlight either, particularly electronic music. But when you consider the fact hip-hop is probably the most popular genre of music in America right now, this year’s halftime show was not before time.
It was L.A.-heavy with a touch of Detroit and NYC. So we got Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, and an unannounced appearance by 50 Cent. All, ALL, were phenomenal. There was a tiny bit of controversy over Snoop being pictured smoking weed before the show, which is ridiculous. Water is wet, the sky is blue, Snoop smokes weed.
Others were offended by Snoop’s stance on law enforcement. The Suffolk County Police Benevolent Fund posted on social media: “Encouraging people to shoot police officers apparently earns you a spot as a headliner at the Superbowl. If you choose to watch the game at all, (we won’t be) halftime is a great moment to shut your TV off in honor of those men and women in blue who gave their lives for us.”
The post was directly addressing the Snoop song “Police” featuring J5 Slap, which features the line: “Take your guns that you using to shoot each other and start shooting these b&*ch ass motherfuckin’ police, That’ll impress a motherfuckin’ n&$a like me.”
We thought the days of pointing the finger at rappers (see N.W.A’s “Fuck the Police” and Ice-T/Body Count’s “Copkiller”) for violent lyrics were over as the world came to terms with the idea that — d’ya know what — maybe people of color can vent a little through their lyrics as they’re being systematically killed by law enforcement.
The demands that Snoop be removed from the halftime show (not Dre, by the way, who was of course on that N.W.A record) fell on deaf ears. Indeed, the show started with Snoop’s “The Next Episode”, Dre at his side. Then Dre busted out “California Love”, the tune he recorded with Tupac.
That’s when we got to see 50 Cent hanging upside down for a vicious rendition of “In Da Club”. And Mary J. Blige soon followed with “Family Affair” and “No More Drama”. All good so far? For most, but not everyone.
Apparently the curves on Blige (looking stunning at 51) and 50 Cent (46) were enough to set social media ablaze with fat shaming puns. “50 Cent looks like a full dollar now,” was one very popular line. Fuck ’em.
Both artists looked absolutely fine. Do they fit the celebrity archetype of impossible body standards? No, and thank god. 50 Cent might have a bit of a belly but he’s far from enormous. And so what if he is? Blige, meanwhile, looks like the queen that she is.
Some felt that 50 Cent has it coming due to his past use of misogynistic lyrics. The Source reported one fan as saying that, “Typically I would be against the body shaming of 50 Cent but the way his misogynistic vitriol is targeted towards Black women and their bodies the majority of the time, this fat Black girl gonna get some full belly laughs at his expense.”
Others were more defensive.
“Everyone talking about how fat 50 is now I bet none of y’all could get up there, hang upside down & rap. GTFOH.. y’all can’t even do a pull up BE REAL,” said CynicalCyn.
So there was that. Kendrick Lamar was immense, particularly on “Alright”. Then Eminem popped up to help with “Forgot About Dre” and a frankly hair-raising “Lose Yourself”. Dre brought some more Tupac with “I Ain’t Mad at Cha”, and then everyone got up together for “Still D.R.E.”. But before that, right after “Lose Yourself,” Eminem took the knee.
Now, there has been some debate about why he did it. Some say he was simply tired. Bullshit — he was there for another two songs. Others say that it was out of tribute for Tupac and/or Dre. Meh — he would have done it at the end.
The truth is, Eminem — who has stood up for Colin Kaepernick in the past — knew exactly what he was doing. He was at the Super Bowl AKA football’s grand showpiece event. Every part of that halftime show was carefully choreographed to the second.
Yep, Eminem took the knee at the Super Bowl. And he did it for all the right reasons.