Dr. Dre parties, Eminem kneels in energized Super Bowl halftime show
Dr. Dre's contributions to hip-hop were celebrated during Sunday's halftime show at the Super Bowl.
It was a party at the house that Dr. Dre built, and everyone was invited.
Sunday's Super Bowl halftime show acted as a full-on celebration of Dr. Dre and his immeasurable contributions to hip-hop, as well as an overdue acknowledgement of rap's influence on pop music and popular culture. It was the first time rap had ever taken center stage at the halftime show, and given the sheer starpower on display and the overall success of the presentation, it won't be the last.
Dre, the architect of West Coast rap music, and a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer as a member of N.W.A., was joined by party guests Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and Eminem, as well as surprise attendee 50 Cent.
The brouhaha in the buildup to the show surrounded Eminem wanting to take a knee during the performance, a show of solidarity with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and the NFL reportedly insisting he not do so (league reps denied those reports).
Well, Em definitely took a knee and he held it, closing his performance of "Lose Yourself" and dropping down to the stage on one knee, bowing his head and looking toward the ground for an extended period of time. It was a silent protest, but a protest nonetheless.
The buoyant performance unfolded on an all-white set that was designed to look like a modern L.A. home, positioned on top of a large map of Dre's hometown of Los Angeles, where the show was held.
The performance was bookended by Dre and Snoop: they opened the 14-minute set together with "The Next Episode," from 1999's "Chronic 2001" album, and ended with "Still D.R.E.," from the same album.
It's fitting that the show would open and close with the two of them together. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Dre's landmark solo debut album "The Chronic," which largely introduced Snoop to the world, and their partnership over the years is historic. Trends change, styles come and go; Dre and Snoop are forever.
Dre was dressed in all black, Snoop in all blue (with yellow accents, a nod to the LA Rams) and gold-frame sunglasses, and Snoop acted as Dre's hype man during a jubilant "California Love," his collaboration with the late Tupac Shakur. "I been in the game for 30 years making rap tunes," Dre rapped, updating the original timestamp in the lyric, which is 10 years, and he still shorted himself by at least five years.
Surprise guest 50 took the performance "In Da Club" with his Dre-produced 2003 smash, which still hits like a nuclear bomb. 50, looking bulky and smiling ear to ear, started the song hanging upside down, like he does in the song's video, and he was surrounded by dancers like he was really in a club.
Mary J. Blige, the only member of the troupe who had performed at the Super Bowl halftime before, back in 2001, kept the celebration going with her Dre-produced 2001 anthem "Family Affair." Dressed in all white and bedazzled thigh-high boots, she stomped her way through the song, and then brought vocal fireworks with her performance of "No More Drama." An overhead shot caught her collapsing to the stage floor at the close of the song, ending on a dramatic note, appropriate even though her song promised the opposite.
Lamar, the youngest of the assembled performers by a dozen years (he's 34), ran through a charged version of "Alright," his uplifting and unifying 2015 single, a song that's full of hope but acknowledges the struggles it takes to achieve it. Lamar was surrounded by dancers in black suits wearing "Dre Day" sashes, and the Pulitzer Prize winner was energetic, pointed and purposeful, his words as pointed as daggers.
Then came Eminem, and after touching on "Forgot About Dre," his collaboration with Dre from "Chronic 2001," he rolled into his Oscar-winning 2002 anthem "Lose Yourself," the theme song from "8 Mile." Em, wearing black leather pants and a newly designed pair of Air Jordan IIIs, with his backwards "E" logo on the tongues, tore into the song, and the audio mix made it clear he was rapping over a pre-laid track of his own vocals. Dre was behind him, miming work on a console, while Em was joined by Anderson .Paak on drums, another Dre cohort. Em then dropped to his knee and bowed his head (the camera stayed on him for a while) as Dre sat down at the piano next to him, first plinking out a few notes of 2Pac's "I Ain't Mad at Cha," and then the opening notes of his own "Still D.R.E."
The whole group — Dre, Snoop, 50, Mary, Kendrick and Eminem — assembled at center stage for the closing of "Still D.R.E.," a song that speaks to Dre's longevity and continued relevance in rap and beyond.
It was a fitting close to a monster performance, one that showed the importance of Dre and what he's brought to the world, and how much pure fun it can be to string together 20-plus years of hip-hop anthems that have touched multiple generations. Dre's importance to music cannot be understated. Without him there's no Snoop and there's no Eminem, or at least their paths look a lot different. His spotlight was earned, and Dre was all smiles as the hit parade came to a close.
He ensured it will be a long time before anyone forgets about Dre.