There may have been some big boys battling it out at the 2022 Super Bowl, but it was a night of hip-hop heavyweights at the Super Bowl LVI halftime show on Sunday.
Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and, unnecessarily, 50 Cent, rocked the stage at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California midway through the big game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals. And of course, they were joined by the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul herself, Mary J. Blige.
But if there was one headliner amidst this loaded lineup, it was Dr. Dre. The 56-year-old producer, rapper and mogul presided over the festivities like the hip-hop boss that he is. Not only has he proudly repped California from Day One — helping to put West Coast rap on the map — but his work with all of the other artists on the bill has propelled them to some of their highest heights.
When he opened the halftime show doing “The Next Episode” with Snoop, it was like a family reunion as the two Cali boys came together to rock that jam from “2001” in front of the hometown crowd. Dre and Snoop were no doubt the heart of this halftime show — no more so than when they did the No. 1 hit “California Love,” with Snoop filling in for the late Tupac Shakur as you could feel all the love for the Sunshine State beaming throughout SoFi Stadium.
Dre and Snoop would join forces again on “Still D.R.E.” later in the show, but by that point there was no need to remind anyone why these ’90s hip-hop titans were very much still here.
With so many artists on the lineup, it was hard for anyone to stand out. But Lamar — another California native — did just that. I was expecting him to do his 2017 hit “Humble,” but was pleasantly surprised that K-Dot instead did his socially charged single “Alright.”
Backed with dancers decked out in militaristic black suits, he formed his own kind of rhythm nation as he made a powerful Black History Month statement amidst all the club bangers in the night. And given that he was the most contemporary star by far, it was fitting that he represented the state of California hip-hop today.
Of course, it was always going to be easy for Blige to stand out among all that hip-hop testosterone, and she did just that when she performed her Dre-produced smash “Family Affair” in a sparkly silver getup complete with matching thigh-high boots. It was a bit out of place for the mood of the night when she segued into her dramatic ballad “No More Drama,” but her powerhouse performance almost made you forget that.
Certainly, things picked up again when Eminem, clad in a black hoodie, did his Oscar-winning No. 1 hit “Lose Yourself.” It was pretty much the perfect song for the big game — and he delivered it as if he was going for the winning touchdown.
With five performers already, the set probably didn’t need surprise guest 50 Cent doing his Dre-produced smash “In Da Club.” Certainly, it would have been better to hear more from, say, Lamar. But if the night was meant to celebrate Dre, it didn’t hurt to have 50 at the party.