The Super Bowl halftime show is the domain of megastars who boast enough wattage to captivate the world’s attention. Dr. Dre and his superstar proteges met the moment, putting on for L.A. and the rap game as a whole. They pulled off one of the best Super Bowl halftime performances ever, and the first to showcase a bill full of rappers (as well as the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul” Mary J. Blige).
It was an unforgettable 15 minutes that deserves to be celebrated on that merit, but many things are true at once. The performance didn’t make us forget the controversy that the performers are embroiled in, and it doesn’t absolve the NFL of its awful, discriminatory practices toward players and coaches.
Rumors surfaced on Sunday that the league policed Snoop’s wardrobe and censored Dre’s “still not lovin’ police” and Kendrick Lamar’s “we hate po-po” lyrics. Eminem was allegedly told not to kneel onstage, though he kneeled anyway.
The NFL was reportedly fearful of sparking a “culture war” by letting rappers be their unfiltered selves, but league brass already chose their side of that divide by trying to police the performance. It cues to the same mentality behind the league blackballing Colin Kaepernick, maintaining racially biased practices for coaches, and only ending a policy that assumed Black players had a lower cognitive function last year. The performance opportunity was just a Roc Nation-devised olive branch that decided to accept because rap deserved a moment like this.