I’m proud of the Rams and thrilled with their Super Bowl triumph. But my greatest joy of the day didn’t come from a touchdown from Cooper Kupp or a tackle from Aaron Donald.
It was sparked by the historic halftime show, where the style, soundtrack and brilliance of Black Lives Matter was exuberant on the world’s brightest stage.
It was a show that roared “I SEE YOU!” He brought old-school hip-hop — in all its rules-based glory — to living rooms where sagging pants and anti-police rants would never be allowed. He showed the world how black creativity is driving culture change.
I watched it with my millennial daughter, and we both said the show spoke directly to us.
She knew every word to Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” a song of hope and resilience that became an anthem of protest. And me, a boomer, I can still sing with Snoop, Eminem and Dre.
I was moved to tears by the raw voice of Mary J. Blige, reflecting on her struggles over the years. And my daughter was thrilled beyond measure by the full black dancers, strutting around in shimmering skintight costumes.
The images resonated as much as the music. Finally, “fat” women – a compliment in our world – got their due on stage. And the men marching in unison in Kendrick Lamar’s performance reflected the precision of the “step show” routines that are the signature of black fraternities.
The stars — Kendrick, Mary, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and 50 Cent — may have mellowed, but their swagger hasn’t faded. They were old school music makers who helped put rap on the map. They’ve been through too much to be bothered by what enemies might think.
They endured years of criticism from blusterers who blamed hip-hop for its cringe-worthy excesses: humiliating women and glorifying outlaw life. But the review missed the main point of the music. Hip-hop spoke the language of the streets, signaling significant social issues — such as rampant drug addiction, social inequality, and police brutality — before they appeared on our mainstream radar screen. It was divisive by design.
On Sunday, the genre’s subversiveness was overshadowed by the spectacle, but the vision and audacity of the innovators was clear.
Indeed, social media was buzzing with both praise and venom after the halftime show. And many people were simply surprised that “American culture” had evolved enough to “allow” rap music to commandeer the gaming scene.
Note to all of you on this: Black culture is American culture – and we stopped asking permission generations ago.
There were eyebrows raised three years ago when Jay Z, hip-hop’s first billionaire, teamed up with the NFL on entertainment ventures, given the league’s plantation mentality.
But on Sunday, the renegade spirit of hip-hop won out.
NFL officials are rumored to have ordered the singers not to disparage the police or take a knee, a la Colin Kaepernick. The NFL has denied that, but they deny a lot of things that are probably true.
And anyway, Eminem kneels solemnly, and Dre reminds us that he “still doesn’t like the police.” They were the pioneers and they persevered. There’s something to be said for that, especially in these tough shape-shifting times.
And while I’m glad the National Football League has given the stage to hip-hop royalty, I don’t see this as a reflection of an evolution of the NFL.
Colin Kaepernick still doesn’t have a job. There are only two black coaches in a league where 70% of the players are black. And even though the NFL is reluctantly paying concussion benefits to players disabled by on-field damage, black players are financially harmed by the league’s formula.
Snoop Dogg said it best during a session with reporters a few days before the big game: “We know a lot of people didn’t want hip-hop on stage. Well, we’re here now, and there’s nothing you can do about it.