Apparently there was a football game in Los Angeles Sunday and it played backseat to the concert that happened in the middle of it.
This concert has a different tone than the ones before it. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg represent the genesis of west coast gangster rap and were once the target of lots of hand-wringing culture war nonsense in the 90s, but have done a 180- and remained in the mainstream as they matured.
Sometime around “fo shizzle,” Snoop became less gangsta and more fun uncle in the eyes of America. Despite his own alleged past behaviors, while Dr. Dre’s got his name on a building at USC. He’s also produced every other artist performing at half-time, making it a family affair. (Get it? “Family Affair”?)
Kendrick Lamar, heir to the West Coast hip-hop legacy, was honestly my favorite. His song “Alright” was the unofficial soundtrack to the protests against police brutality – I’m interested in their approach to the NFL and America’s most watched halftime performance. I assume there was a conversation about protesting and keeping it conservative for the American families. However, I was surprised that it was Eminem who took the knee. An obvious sign in support of Colin Kaepernick but it appeared to be a decision he made sans the NFL’s approval. (Good on Em).
Mary J. Blige, beloved singer of a generation of Black girls’ favorite sad songs, looked amazing and let us know that Mary J. Blige is a huge artist. Despite her success, Mary has not strayed from her branding as the Queen of Hip-Hop/Soul. Seeing her on stage means someone made a choice about what kind of show this is getting ready to be. A show that was a nod to hip hop culture and the power of black culture.
Lastly, let’s get deeper into Eminem's performance . Now, granted, Eminem currently holds the record as the highest-selling rapper in history. He’s got crossover appeal and, ironically, satisfies the diversity quota by being the only white person on stage. That said, Eminem’s music isn’t the most…um, progressive. Choosing Em to perform during a time where marginalized communities are calling out the rich and powerful for their -isms and phobias? That, too, is a choice. Which is why I was surprised by him taking a knee.
This was a great show for people like me who are nostalgic for the days when rap lyrics weren’t mumbled, where the beats didn’t all sound the same and when 90s R&B was out here making us feel something. Frankly, most people were more interested in the show than the game itself. The show will be a welcomed distraction from this week’s wave of bad headlines and reports that uncover accusations of hiring discrimination, as well as those that accuse Jay-Z of doing little to nothing in the way of social justice as he pledged to when he took up the mantle of Halftime Show production.
Those problems are still here and I’ll allow Gooddell’s plan to entertain us on Sunday night but please know I’m fully aware that I wrapped myself up in some 90s nostalgia cloaked in racism. What a world we live in!