Super Bowl LVI: Halftime hip-hop performers will rap to stronger beat

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — With Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem and Mary J. Blige headlining Super Bowl LVI’s halftime show Sunday, pro football’s annual entertainment extravaganza will rap to a stronger beat.

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It is not the first time a rap or hip-hop artist has been part of a Super Bowl halftime show, but it is the first time it has taken center stage, The New York Times reported. Super Bowl halftime shows are typically watched by more than 100 million people, according to Sports Media Watch.

“We’re going to open more doors for hip-hop artists in the future and making sure that the NFL understands that this is what it should have been long time ago,” Dr. Dre said during a news conference on Thursday. “We’re going to do it so big that they can’t deny us anymore in the future.”

Blige, for example, is the only one of Sunday’s performers who have been part of a Super Bowl halftime show. She was part of the show in 2001 in Tampa, Florida, according to The Sporting News. That year, she appeared on the bill as special guests with Britney Spears and Nelly. Aerosmith and NSYNC were the headliners that year.

The first Super Bowl halftime show, which was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, featured trumpeter Al Hirt, the Grambling State Marching Band and the Anaheim High School Ana-Hi-Steppers Drill Team and Flag Girls. It also starred the University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band, which performed songs including the Dixie anthem, “Waiting for the Robert E. Lee,” the Times reported.

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Now, the Super Bowl is returning toward edgier performances. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, now among the most recognizable hip-hop veterans, were once controversial figures.

“At one point, Dre was in a group (N.W.A.) that was banned by popular culture,” of the Black Eyed Peas, which headlined the show in 2011, told the Times.

Four of the five performers for Sunday’s show have combined to win 44 Grammy Awards. Only Snoop Dogg has not won a Grammy, despite earning 16 nominations.

Eminem, who has been nominated 44 times, tops the list with 15 Grammy Awards, with Lamar nominated 39 times and winning 13 awards. Blige has captured nine Grammys after 31 nominations and Dr. Dre has been nominated 26 times and has been a winner seven times.

Dr. Dre has been a force on the music scene since the 1990s with the rap group N.W.A. For this year’s halftime show, Dr. Dre added two deaf rappers, Sean Forbes and Warren “WaWa” Snipe. That marked the first time in Super Bowl halftime history that sign language interpreters were included, according to Variety.

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Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers, has been a rapper, songwriter, producer and actor. He starred in “8 Mile,” a movie based on his life that won an Academy Award in 2002 for best original song, “Lose Yourself.”

Snoop Dogg has had a big connection with sports through the years. He has done hockey commentary, coached a youth football team and even operated a youth football league. The 50-year-old artist’s favorite team is the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he has also been seen at the stadiums of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Las Vegas Raiders and New England Patriots. Snoop Dogg has released 18 studio albums in his career, most recently in 2021 with “From tha Streets 2 tha Suites,” according to The Sporting News.

Even though he was the youngest performer for Sunday’s halftime show, Lamar, 34, is no stranger to performing at championships games. The rapper, songwriter and producer performed at halftime during last month’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Lamar debuted in 2012 with his album, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.” Lamar, who is from Compton, California, is a fan of the Los Angeles Rams.

Blige, 51, has charted 41 singles on the Billboard Top 100. Since being signed to Uptown Records in 1991, she has been a force in the hip-hop world. Blige’s influence has also extended to the big screen. In 2017 she became the first person nominated for an Oscar for acting and songwriting in the same year. That was for the film “Mudbound.”