For the first time hip-hop headlined the Super Bowl halftime show, starring Dr Dre and proteges Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige and Eminem, who invoked a racial justice protest by taking a knee on music’s biggest stage. Buzz had been building for weeks over the ‘90s lovefest that also included Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent onstage midway through Sunday’s game, which had the Los Angeles Rams taking on the Cincinnati Bengals. The show saw the field transformed into a giant map of Los Angeles, which is hosting the National Football League championship for the first time in nearly three decades.

Dre and Snoop opened the ode to gangsta rap with their hit “The Next Episode,” before paying tribute to Tupac Shakur with “California Love.” East Coast made a cameo as 50 Cent dropped down from the ceiling while launching into the early 2000s favorite “In Da Club,” before Blige kicked the show up a notch with her superhit “Family Affair.” Donning all white and sequins, R&B star Blige then sang “No More Drama,” ahead of Lamar’s performance of “Alright” in front of the stage, surrounded by men donning all black complete with “Dre Day” sashes.

US rapper Eminem kneels on stage as he performs with US rapper Dr Dre during the halftime show of Super Bowl LVI between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. — AFP photos

Detroit rapper Eminem emerged with his Grammy and Oscar-winning smash “Lose Yourself”-before taking a knee, a move that invoked the social justice protest by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and set social media alight. Kaepernick began kneeling during national anthems in 2016 to protest police brutality and racial injustice, triggering controversy for years. Eminem, wearing a black hoodie, held his head in his hand and knelt, in a move that appeared to reference Kaepernick after performing his smash during music’s most visible gig.

Legendary music mogul Dre then sat at the piano to drop the iconic opening notes of his hit “Still D.R.E.,” before all of the performers joined together to close the rap spectacular. Anderson .Paak also notably made a cameo on drums. It was the third straight Super Bowl performance produced by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, which was enlisted by the NFL to “amplify the league’s social justice efforts.”

The first show Roc Nation produced was a celebrated performance from Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, with the Weeknd putting on an impressive pandemic-era show last year. The 2022 edition comes three years after the NFL faced sharp criticism for choosing pop-rock band Maroon 5 to lead the coveted gig-whose audience usually tops 100 million-in Atlanta, long seen as America’s hip-hop capital.

Prior to Sunday’s kickoff, country star Mickey Guyton, donning a sleek royal blue gown and backed by a gospel choir, delivered a stirring rendition of the US national anthem. The pre-game show also featured a performance from Jhene Aiko, who sang “America the Beautiful” accompanied by a harpist. — AFP