During a pretty electrifying Super Bowl halftime show, Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige, and Eminem all took the stage. Eminem naturally decided to perform "Lose Yourself" for his portion of the show, and following his performance, he took a knee on the stage. Now, many are wondering what motivated the gesture.
Why did Eminem take a knee?
The Detroit rapper's decision to take a knee was undoubtedly inspired by Colin Kaepernick's protest movement, which called for NFL athletes to take a knee during the national anthem in order to protest police violence against Black people. Colin's protest caught fire across the league, and also led to a fierce backlash from figures who decried the protest movement as disrespectful to the country and to America's armed servicemen.
Eminem didn't make any explicit statement to accompany his decision to kneel, but he has a history of supporting Colin's movement, which spread across the world of professional sports and ultimately led him to be shunned from the league. Eminem also has a history of supporting Colin, and famously delivered an explosive freestyle rap during the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards that was explicitly about Donald Trump and police brutality.
"F--k that, this is for Colin, ball up a fist and keep that s--t balled like Donald the b---h," Eminem rapped at the time. That same year, he also released "Untouchable," where he discussed the controversy over Colin's protest.
"Somebody has to be the sacrificial lamb ... So they call it a Kaepernick tantrum," he rapped. "If you don't stand for the national anthem ... We raise it, you better praise it."
Eminem was part of the first hip hop centric halftime show.
Eminem's performance was just one part of a sprawling halftime show that was the first to put the spotlight explicitly on hip hop. Rappers have been featured in a number of halftime shows that were headlined by other artists, but it's remarkable to think that it has taken this long for the Super Bowl to explicitly highlight a genre that has been popular in America for decades.
Of course, Eminem and the other artists who performed alongside him, with the exception of Kendrick, were all elder statesmen of the genre. Although hip hop is not as old as rock or country music, it is now a genre with enough of a legacy that the Super Bowl can bring out genuine legends to perform at the halftime show. Given the generally rave reviews that the show got, it seems like hip hop may return to center stage in the near future.
The halftime show came in the middle of a close contest between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams, with the Rams emerging as the the victors 23-20. The game was the second time in a row that a home team has played in and won the Super Bowl, and marks the first championship for Matthew Stafford, who was drafted as the number one overall pick back in 2009.