As the Los Angeles Rams took a slim 13-10 lead over the Cincinnati Bengals into the locker room, the event many fans were waiting for kicked off at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium: the Super Bowl LVI halftime show.
Some of the biggest names in rap were included in this year's ensemble, including five headliners: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar.
Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg opened the show with "The Next Episode," closely followed by "California Love," while the pair were dancing on a huge row of white boxed platforms that appeared as a cityscape, with several classic white convertibles parked in front. LED lights worn in the crowd flashed along to the show’s beats, transforming SoFi into a massive light show.
50 Cent made a surprise appearance with "In Da Club," before Mary J. Blige — Blige wearing silver sparkles and surrounded by backup dancers — sang a medley of her hits including "Family Affair" and "No More Drama."
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Anderson .Paak also appeared playing drums for Eminem during "Lose Yourself," who at the end of the track kneeled down for about 45 seconds, holding his hand down in one hand.
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The show culminated in Dr. Dre's "Still D.R.E.," as all five headliners appeared together in a fading shot.
Positive reactions on social media were quick to pour in during and after the show, including some celebrities in attendance at the big game.
"THE GREATEST HALFTIME SHOW IVE EVER SEEN!!!" LeBron James tweeted in the minutes after the program.
Mary J. Blige was the only one of the five to have experience performing at halftime, taking the stage back in 2001 when she was featured alongside Britney Spears and Nelly as the special guests of headliners Aerosmith and NSYNC. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Lamar, meanwhile, are making their midgame debuts.
Sporting a total of 21 Billboard No. 1 albums and 43 Grammys, there was no shortage of acclaim across the stacked lineup this year.
Other hits from Kendrick Lamar's "M.A.A.D city" led into Eminem's "Lose Yourself," while Anderson
The show was more accessible this year than ever, too, as Dr. Dre added deaf stars Warren “Wawa” Snipe and Sean Forbes to Sunday's lineup.
Wawa and Forbes use their hands, body and facial expressions to deliver unique renditions of the songs in American Sign Language as the superstars sing on stage.
“The opportunity to be here at the Super Bowl is just unreal," Forbes said from Los Angeles in an interview this week. “I never in a million years dream of, imagined, ever being here. As a performer, this is about as high as it gets. It’s the biggest stage in the world.
Despite the résumés of the top performers, some of the headliners in interviews in the week called out the NFL for being slow to embrace hip-hop artists like themselves.
“It's crazy that it took all of this time for us to be recognized,” Dre said in a moderated appearance with the media on Thursday. “I think we're going to do a fantastic job. We're going to do it so big that they can't deny us anymore in the future.”
“We appreciate the NFL for even entertaining hip-hop because we know a lot of people that don’t want hip-hop onstage," Snoop Dogg said. “But we’re here now and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Other rap artists have previously performed at previous Super Bowl halftime shows, including Travis Scott, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Nelly and Big Boi of Outkast. Pop-rap group Black Eyed Peas performed during halftime as well.
The Weeknd performed for the halftime show at last year's pandemic-limited game, and Shakira and Jennifer Lopez the year before in 2020.