Super Bowl 2022 gives hip-hop fans 'greatest half-time show' and some controversy

Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J Blige and Kendrick Lamar took the stage at the SoFi Stadium, along with surprise guest 50 Cent

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Superstars of hip-hop performed a high-energy half-time show at Sunday's Super Bowl, which featured clean versions of their biggest hits, as well as a defiant Eminem kneeling at the end of Lose Yourself.

Dr Dre, a prolific producer and seven-time Grammy winner, kicked off the performance at SoFi Stadium, standing behind a sound table on top of a makeshift white house. He introduced Snoop Dogg — wearing a blue bandana outfit — who performed a few classics such as The Next Episode and California Love, 2Pac's 1995 hit featuring Dr Dre. The pair were soon joined by surprise guest 50 Cent, who performed his 2003 hit In da Club while hanging upside down and dressed in a white tank top, mimicking the song's music video.

The star-packed line-up also featured R&B star Mary J Blige, who performed Family Affair dressed in a sequinned white outfit and thigh-high boots, accompanied by a sparkling group of backup dancers.

Blige was followed by a black suit-wearing Kendrick Lamar, who was joined by other men sporting the same outfit.

When Eminem’s turn came, he performed a couple of his hits starting with Forgot About Dre, with Anderson .Paak playing the drums. The rapper ended with his record-breaking 2002 song Lose Yourself and took a knee, placing his head in his hand — a gesture that former quarterback Colin Kaepernick made during the US national anthem at NFL games as a call for racial justice.

Kaepernick has not played since the 2016 season as no NFL team hired him after he began kneeling.

While earlier reports suggested that the NFL had told Eminem not to kneel during the performance, a representative denied it soon after.

“We watched all elements of the show during multiple rehearsals this week and were aware that Eminem was going to do that,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

After Eminem’s show, all six performers joined together as Dr Dre rapped Still Dre, the closing number featuring an array of dancers dressed in khaki outfits as an explosion of fireworks lit up the sky.

Before the show, Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg said that the NFL should have embraced rap years ago and that they hoped to open doors for more hip-hop artists. Rap musicians have appeared previously, but alongside pop and rock acts.

One review called Sunday's show one of the best since Beyonce and Bruno Mars’s half-time set in 2016.

"The greatest half-time show I've ever seen," Los Angeles Lakers basketball star LeBron James, who was seated in the crowd, wrote on Twitter.

The Super Bowl is the most-watched TV broadcast annually, drawing in an audience of about 100 million and attracting the world's top musical talent.

Earlier in the evening Mickey Guyton, who made history in 2020 as the first black woman to earn a Grammy nomination in a country music category, performed The Star-Spangled Banner before the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals took to the field.

Guyton delivered a soaring, emotive version of the US national anthem with a minimum of frills that were largely a cappella at first, before a small choir and piano joined her.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson introduced the teams just before kick-off, putting on his old wrestling persona.

“Finally! The Super Bowl has come back to Los Aaaaangelesssss!” he said, cocking his eyebrow as he did back when he was a WWE star.

“It is time for all of us here and millions around the world to bear witness to these incredible players, who will leave every ounce of sweat, guts, pride and legacy out here on this hallowed field, because that is what champions do,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honour to say: ‘Finally, it is time for the Super Bowl!’”

Celebrities also packed the stands at SoFi Stadium, many of them appearing on the giant screens during advertisement breaks. The crowd cheered as Kevin Hart blew kisses, Chris Tucker and Charlize Theron danced and Doja Cat and Danny Trejo waved. Jennifer Lopez, who was accompanied by Ben Affleck, didn’t seem to notice she was on the huge 360º screen at all.

— Additional reporting by Reuters and AP

Updated: February 14, 2022, 9:12 AM