Outside SoFi Stadium on Sunday just before Super Bowl LVI, Ricardo Roberts and Shelley Overton wore matching homemade t-shirts that clearly showed their loyalty. “Only here for the halftime show,” read the shirts, over airbrushed portraits of Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige and Snoop Dogg.
The two had traveled from Chicago for Overton’s 50th anniversary, and while they were supporting the Los Angeles Rams, the event was more of a concert than an NFL championship for them. “It’s going to be epic,” Roberts, 49, said. “I think it’s going to be one of the best shows in Super Bowl history.”
He was right. The 14-minute medley was a deep and specific celebration of Black LA culture and hip-hop, rooted in neighborhoods whose skyline now sports a multi-billion dollar home for the Rams. Visual references to Eve’s After Dark, Tam’s Burgers and Compton’s Martin Luther King Memorial framed clubs of dancers and musicians, all there to affirm the significance of the 90s and 2000s era of hip-hop dominated by Dr. Dre , and of which Lamar is now heir presumptive.
The Super Bowl was only the second football game Silver Lake resident Talia Shipman has attended. But more than the final score, it was Blige who blew her away.
“It’s the music I grew up with and it shaped my love of hip-hop,” she said after the game, on her way to catch a shuttle. “They were all amazing, but she really stole the show.”
Long Beach’s Jordan Zoagosa loved it when 50 Cent came down upside down from the ceiling in an instantly memorable cameo. After seeing pop stars like Coldplay and The Weeknd dominate previous halftime shows, this year’s festivities were something new for Zoagosa and the hip-hop he grew up with.
“It was the greatest halftime show the Super Bowl has ever seen,” Zoagosa said. “LA artists, LA music and an LA crew.”
Minutes after the show, 34-year-old lifelong Los Angeles resident Sade Elhawary confidently said it was her favorite halftime show she had ever seen. “I love Beyoncé, but I’m a west coast girl,” she said. “To see them all at once, and even 50 Cent, it’s like being in the moment. It’s LA, LA”
“Have you seen the Compton courthouse? she said. “And the lowriders? They had the LA map on the floor. It was so cool.
The heart of the show was in South Los Angeles, but fans came from far and wide to see it. Malena Brown, 28, flew in from Dallas to watch the game and see if SoCal could be a fit for her TV and streaming dreams. A full roster of rap legends sweetened the deal.
“Ever since Jay-Z and Roc Nation took over bookings, the music is younger and fresher,” she said. “The NFL was playing pretty safe before.”
Inglewood residents are well aware of the impact the new stadium has had on the city, for better and for worse. But Jelani Hendrix, 31, would not have been anywhere else. He came to the stadium from his house just around the corner. A longtime 49ers fan before the Rams returned to Los Angeles, he had to support the home team, noting how special it was to see the Super Bowl and that concert in his backyard.
Hendrix grew up in West Coast hip-hop. “Some of my earliest music memories were Snoop and Dre,” he said after the halftime show.
For him, a signature Dre song stood head and shoulders above the rest. To be at the biggest sporting event, in a shiny new stadium, with all of its musical heroes on one stage – it was like the crowning glory of an era in American music, and a damn big party too.
“I liked everything, but ‘Still DRE’ was special,” he said. “I was rapping in the crowd. I had the time of my life.”
Los Angeles Times