It’s a sign of the times that playing the Super Bowl halftime show is seen as a mark of disgrace, rather than a pinnacle of success. Yet, NFL owners’ refusal to sign Colin Kaepernick after his protests of police brutality has drawn more protests from many in the Hip Hop community.
After Rihanna and Cardi B turned down the chance to play the Super Bowl, Big Boi and Travis Scott signed on — much to the chagrin of Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.
That said, they’re far from the first rappers to spit bars during the break of the biggest night in sports. Peep this list of MCs who have gotten down as the players downed Gatorade.
Queen Latifah, Super Bowl XXXII
It took a long time before the Grammys acknowledged Hip Hop as legitimate. It took even longer for the NFL to be on board. Latifah was family-friendly for her positive lyrics and roles on shows such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Living Single. So, she was the perfect rapper to test the waters in front of an audience unfamiliar with Hip Hop. She performed “Paper” sandwiched in between “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas and “Motownphilly” by Boyz II Men.
The game itself saw John Elway lead the Denver Broncos to their first Super Bowl victory over Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.
Nelly, Super Bowl XXXV
The theme was “The Kings of Rock and Pop” at halftime of the Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants. Aerosmith was there to placate the old heads, while NSYNC, Britney Spears, and Queen of Hip Hop Soul Mary J. Blige were the soup of the day. Also in the mix was Nelly.
Although the lack of Billboard presence makes it hard to believe now, back then, Nelly’s melodic flow and wide smile made him more friendly than his gun-toting peers. He was included in just one song: a rendition of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” with all of the aforementioned superstars. Ray Lewis and the Ravens’ stalwart defense stifled the Giants on the way to the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.
Nelly & Diddy, Super Bowl XXXVIII
The slip seen ‘round the world. Everyone from college marching bands and Jessica Simpson to Kid Rock and Puffy graced halftime of the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers. While Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning heroics sent him into NFL lore (again), this Super Bowl is remembered for Janet Jackson’s famous wardrobe “malfunction” caused by Justin Timberlake that allowed the world to see one of her nipples.
The next six years of Super Bowl halftime shows were decidedly grandfatherly.
The Black Eyed Peas, Super Bowl XLV
The world had a feeling that the likes of the aging “The Who” weren’t going to satiate audiences forever. The Black Eyed Peas stepped up to the plate to be the first Hip Hop group to take center stage at the Super Bowl. The Peas got it started with “I Gotta Feeling” before making the stadium shake with “Boom Boom Pow” and playing several hits of their well-known hits.
Meanwhile, two storied franchises faced off, with the Packers edging the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Nicki Minaj & Cee Lo Green, Super Bowl XLVI
Madonna headlined Patriots vs. Giants, Pt. II, but a young, hungry Nicki Minaj and career-renaissance Cee Lo got in on the fun. Nicki and M.I.A. aided Madonna on “Give Me All Your Luvin,” while Cee Lo joined the Queen of Pop on “Open Your Heart/Express Yourself” and “Like a Prayer.”
The collaborations once again showed the power of music to bridge gaps, while Eli Manning and the Giants proved once again that Tom Brady isn’t invincible.
Destiny’s Child, Super Bowl XLVII
Reunited and it felt so good. After Beyonce did her thing solo for a while R&B trio with Hip Hop flare rejoined forces to sing a few favorites, including “Independent Women Pt. I” and “Bootylicious,” while Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams helped Beyonce with her hit, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).” Beyonce capped off the set with “Halo,” but the real treat was “Run The World (Girls)” leading into a Vince Lombardi speech. Where else would you hear that?
Meanwhile, in the battle of the brothers, coaches John and Jim Harbaugh, the Baltimore Ravens bested the San Francisco 49ers. Beyonce performed two years later at the Super Bowl as a solo act.
Missy Elliott, Super Bowl XLIX
Everyone will remember the controversial passing call by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll that gave the New England Patriots the game. Yet, Missy Elliott’s halftime performance was almost as memorable. Katy Perry started the set by rolling out on some giant, mechanical lion before singing her heart out.
Right around the middle, though, a cosmic shift occurred, and Miss E. took the world by surprise with “Get Ur Freak On” and “Work It” alongside Perry. Elliott was amidst a battle with lupus, so when she capped it off solo with “Lose Control,” it was like watching the fight in a final Rocky film.