12 Best Hip-Hop Halftime Performances
Everyone wondered what Kendrick Lamar would do. The Compton rapper, who put on an exhilarating performance at the 2018 CFP National Championship, was expected to take the stage in front on Donald Trump—a president of whom K Dot (and basically every rapper) has been critical both on- and off-wax. Would he make a political statement? Call him out? Make fun of his hands?
By the time the Top Dawg Entertainment lyricist took the stage at Centennial Park in Atlanta—where the Crimson Tide defeated the Georgia Bulldogs—Trump had reportedly left the venue. Still, Kendrick put on a powerful show that included a set list of hits like "Humble," "DNA," and "All the Stars," his new collaboration with labelmate SZA off of the soundtrack for Marvel’s Black Panther.
The performance was one of a long line of moments where hip-hop has taken center stage in a sporting event, making for electric moments that are timestamps in history. Some of the most unforgettable rap shows have gone down in the world of sports. From Nelly to Nicki Minaj, Black Eyed Peas to Kanye West, rap has graced the stage on every level, adding fire to Super Bowls and NBA All-Star Weekends alike.
On the heels of Kendrick Lamar's show-stopping performance at the CFP National Championship, XXL took a trip down memory lane and compiled a list of 12 of the most memorable performances to take place during a sporting contest.
In 1998, Queen Latifah was one of a slew of performers selected to pay homage to the legacy of Motown Records during the Super Bowl XXXII halftime show. Performing her song "Paper," which features a sample of the Motown classic "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," Latifah made history as the first rapper to hit the stage at the Super Bowl, opening yet another door for hip-hop.
Coming off the heels off his wildly successful debut album Country Grammar, Nelly joined music royalty during the Super Bowl XXXV halftime Show. In the midst of 'N Sync, Britney Spears and Mary J. Blige joining Aerosmith on stage for a rendition of their hit "Walk This Way," Nelly came out of nowhere, dropping the opening verse from his own hit single "E.I." over Steven Tyler's rollicking guitar riffs.
P. Diddy and Nelly co-starred alongside the likes of Jessica Simpson, Janet Jackson, Kid Rock, and Justin Timberlake during the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in 2004. Performing a medley of Bad Boy's biggest hits, including "Bad Boy for Life," "Diddy" and "Mo Money Mo Problems," P. Diddy was joined by Nelly, who lit the crowd on fire with a quickstrike from his 2002 hit, "Hot in Herre." It was a historic moment that's unfortunately been overshadowed by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake's Nipplegate controversy.
"Boom Boom Pow," "Pump It," "Let's Get It Started" and "Where Is The Love?" are just a few of the selections The Black Eyed Peas performed during their headlining performance during the Super Bowl XLV halftime show at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. In addition to rockers like Slash, The Black Eyed Peas were also joined by Usher, who popped up to perform his will.i.am collaboration "OMG" before the Peas closed things on a high note with a reprise of their sing-along smash, "I Gotta Feeling."
In 2011, Rihanna performed during the NBA All-Star Game halftime and brought along a few surprise guests to turn up the energy. Drake was the first surprise—he spit his verse from her Rih's single, "What's My Name." The Bajan singer later summoned Kanye West for a performance of "All Of The Lights."
In 2012, Nicki Minaj appeared alongside Madonna and M.I.A. for a rendition of "Give Me All Your Luvin'," their collaboration from Madonna's MDNA album, during the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show.
Atlanta representative Ludacris served as a musical ambassador for his stomping grounds during the NCAA Final Four 2013, which was held at Centennial Olympic Park. Billed alongside a diverse list of acts that included Sting and Dave Matthews Band, Ludacris pulled out all of the stops, turning up with signature cuts like "Pimpin' All Over the World," "What's Your Fantasy" and "Roll Out," showing the attendees a bit of southern hospitality in a big way.
During the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, Katy Perry gave the crowd and viewers a pleasant surprise when she brought out Missy Elliott. The rap legend had been relatively quiet on the music front for much of the previous decade, performed a medley of her biggest fan favorites, with songs like "Get Ur Freak On," "Work It" and "Lose Control."
Hip-hop was in full force during the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend, as Kendrick Lamar and Pharrell Williams were tapped to hit the stage and take part in the festivities. Kendrick, who headlined the Saturday night of the All-Star Weekend, performed a medley of hits, including "M.A.A.D. City" and "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe," prior to the Sprite Slam Dunk, while Pharrell Williams joined Janelle Monae and Earth, Wind & Fire during All-Star Game player introductions.
In 2015, legendary spitter E-40 put on for The Bay by performing during halftime of the series opening match-up between his hometown squad's Golden State Warriors and LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers. Hitting the crowd with bangers like "Tell Me When To Go" and "Choices," E-40 sprinkled his swagger all over the court, perhaps providing an energy boost that helped Steph Curry's squad to win the series in six games, giving the team its first NBA title in decades.
Brooklyn rapper Desiigner took his talents Uptown when he performed at Rucker Park in 2016 during the Entertainer's Basketball Classic. With a standing-room-only crowd flocking to the court, the G.O.O.D. Music signee delivered a charged-up performance of his breakout hit "Panda."
Flo Rida may have made his bones coming out of the Florida rap scene, but the rapper showed Golden State Warriors fans a good time by delving into a set that ran the gamut of his biggest hits during the second game of the 2017 NBA Finals. "My House," "Good Feeling" and his Sage the Gemini collab "Game Time" were among the tracks that Flo Rida pulled out of his grab bag of hits during his performance, which got everyone from kids to the Warriors cheerleaders involved.