Eminem brought some 313 to the 213 in a Los Angeles-themed Super Bowl halftime show Sunday night — and kneeled to take a social stand as he did it.
The Detroit rapper, in possible defiance of the NFL, wrapped his performance of “Lose Yourself” by taking a knee a la Colin Kaepernick as he helped culminate the Super Bowl’s first-ever hip-hop halftime program.
The Dr. Dre-led show was a dynamic affair, with Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and an unannounced 50 Cent performing atop L.A.-style block houses and a canvas of city streets. Three vintage Chevy Impala convertibles were positioned out front.
Eminem came late in the 15-minute extravaganza, entering to the sounds of his 2000 hit “Forgot About Dre” before launching into “Lose Yourself.” In his black hoodie, gold chain and Air Jordan 3 sneakers, the 49-year-old rapper served up familiar rhymes from the opening verses of his career showpiece song.
He ended his set by kneeling on the stage, in an apparent echo of a gesture made famous and infamous by former NFL quarterback Kaepernick in a protest against police brutality. Veteran showbiz journalist Eriq Gardner had reported earlier Sunday the NFL fought Eminem’s plans to include the move in his performance.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy later pushed back on the notion that Eminem defied the league’s wishes, according to a USA Today sports editor. “The NFL watched every rehearsal this week and that element was included,” Mike Freeman tweeted after the halftime show.
The Free Press has reached out to Eminem’s camp for clarification.
For 55 years, the Super Bowl halftime program had showcased an array of musical talent: pop singers, rock bands, Broadway stars, marching bands.
On Sunday, for the first time, hip-hop was headlining.
It was a strong shot of ’90s and ’00s nostalgia as Dre ushered in Snoop for performances of “The Next Episode” and “California Love.” 50 Cent, dangling upside down to start his set, made his surprise appearance with “In Da Club,” as limber-voiced Blige followed with “Family Affair” and “No More Drama.”
At 34, Kendrick Lamar was the youngster of the night, turning out “M.A.A.D. City” and “Alright.”
Capping the halftime show were Dre and Snoop with 1999’s “Still D.R.E.” — apparently getting their way in another reported wrestling match with the NFL by including the hit song’s lyric, “Still not lovin’ police.”
Sunday’s halftime artists were enjoying one of biggest performance opportunities of their careers — certainly their most significant broadcast showcase ever. Most of the artists involved came in with direct working ties to Dre.
Weekend-long rumors of a Tupac Shakur hologram appearance, which would have reprised the late rapper’s high-tech performance at the 2012 Coachella fest, turned out to be off-base.
Eminem wasn’t the only Detroit representation Sunday night: Deaf rapper Sean Forbes also was part of the festivities, accompanying the show with an assured, high-energy American Sign Language performance. Forbes and fellow deaf rapper Warren (WaWa) Snipe, whose full appearances aired online, were the first deaf artists enlisted by the NFL for Super Bowl halftime.
Although Forbes’ Super Bowl halftime appearance wasn’t arranged by Eminem, he has deep links to the Detroit star: Forbes has long worked with the crew at 54 Sound, the Ferndale studio where Em recorded much of his early work. These days, he collaborates with producer-songwriter Jake Bass — son of former Eminem producer Jeff Bass.
Contact Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.