Rap takes over Super Bowl halftime, balancing celebration and protest

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Leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show, much ado was made over the fact that this would be the first year that hip-hop occupied the center of the concert. It was marketing copy that overlooked the glaring lateness of the achievement — that rap was finally getting the spotlight in perhaps the 20-somethingth year of hip-hop occupying the center of American pop music. Does progress this delayed still count as a breakthrough?

After several years of grappling with an assortment of racial controversies, the NFL likely wanted credit for showcasing Black music — especially hip-hop, the lingua franca of American pop culture — this prominently. What would some of rap music’s generational superstars — Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar — titans with little fear for their reputations, do with this most visible of platforms?

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