“We know a lot of people didn’t want hip hop on stage, but we’re here now. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”
These are the words of Snoop Dogg, one of five artists who will take the stage at SoFi Stadium for the Super Bowl 56 halftime show. Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige will join him, giving the 2022 show a decidedly hip-hop vibe.
The selection of this group of music legends marks a significant shift in the NFL’s approach to its signature event. For years, it was comfortable to choose safe old rock bands. What led to this change? Why has the league now opened the door to rap?
It all goes back to Jay-Z and Roc Nation.
MORE: Complete history of the artists of the Super Bowl halftime show
Jay-Z and Roc Nation begin working with the NFL
In 2017, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter turned down an offer to perform at the Super Bowl. On 2018’s song “Apes—” he rapped, “I said no to the Super Bowl. You need me. I don’t need you.” He told The New York Times in 2020 that he was upset the NFL wanted his show to include appearances from Kanye West and Rihanna.
“Of course I would have [performed with them]”, Jay-Z said. “But I said, ‘No, you understand me.’ That’s not how you go about it, telling someone they’re going to do the show of the halftime depending on who he brings. I said forget it. It was a principled thing.”
Jay-Z’s history with the league made his next move quite surprising. His sports and entertainment company, Roc Nation, partnered with the NFL in 2019 to “enhance NFL live gaming experiences and amplify the league’s social justice efforts.”
“With its global reach, the National Football League has the platform and the opportunity to inspire change across the country,” Jay-Z said in a press release at the time. “Roc Nation has shown that entertaining and implementing change are not mutually exclusive ideas – instead, we unify them. This partnership is an opportunity to strengthen the fabric of communities across America.”
Jay-Z and Roc Nation Influence Super Bowl Halftime Shows
Roc Nation’s first halftime show featured Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, and it received largely positive reviews. Last year’s version was headlined by The Weeknd, and while her performance received mixed reviews, it was an impressive achievement given the challenges of putting on a huge show amid the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19.
The hope for the company is that Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige can deliver on the Super Bowl stage and create more opportunities for members of the hip-hop community.
“We’re going to open more doors for hip-hop artists in the future and make sure the NFL understands that this is what it should have been a long time ago,” Dr. Dre said. “Do you understand what I’m saying? We’re going to show exactly how professional we can be, how dope we can be on stage and how exciting we’re going to be for the fans. We’re going to let you know what it’s like. is .”
MORE: How much do Super Bowl halftime show performers get paid?
Jay-Z and Roc Nation face criticism
While Roc Nation has certainly made strides in improving live gaming experiences, some reviewers believe it missed the mark on its second goal.
The NFL recently came under fire after former Dolphins coach Brian Flores sued the league, alleging teams engaged in discriminatory hiring practices. The NFL has faced questions about its social justice efforts since 2016, when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality. . (Several artists reportedly turned down requests to perform at the Super Bowl in solidarity with Kaepernick.)
How to stop racism, systematic oppression and police brutality? Jay-Z and the NFL: Let’s sell t-shirts and organize concerts. It will really shake up the system.
— Chris Williamson (@CWilliamson44) August 30, 2019
Asked about Flores’ situation, Roc Nation CEO Desiree Perez told the Los Angeles Times that she was not surprised by the news.
“I know some owners; I don’t know every owner in the league. But just like the world, there’s a bit of everything,” Perez said. “There are people who stand for things that I don’t believe in. So I wouldn’t be shocked, out of 32 owners, if there is potentially team ownership that doesn’t want a black coach.”
The NFL’s partnership with Roc Nation is still relatively new, so it may be too early to assess the company’s impact on league operations. Perez understands that some may view hosting a hip-hop show for a league with a poor diversity record as “mixed messaging,” but she’s looking at the big picture.
“We’ll take the hardest, longest and rockiest route, because it’s not about getting away,” Perez said. “It’s not about putting your head down and saying, ‘We give up’. It’s about talking to each other and fighting back.”