Dr. DreSnoop DoggEminemMary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar hosted one of the most highly anticipated Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show performances of all time on Sunday night. The group of hip-hop icons welcomed a variety of special guests during the NFL championship game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, which saw the Los Angeles Rams defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 23–20.

Ever since the announcement back in October and the ensuing trailer in mid-January, this Halftime Show has been poised for poignant significance. Rap and hip-hop—and, more specifically, the G-Funk style Dre helped pioneer—has had an undeniable influence on popular music and culture for more than thirty years. Still, the NFL has largely shied away from hip-hop for the Super Bowl, occasionally including rappers in the festivities but never featuring them as the showcased act.

The NFL has also, quite famously, had a long list of issues with its handling of sensitive racial topics. Signing on with Jay-Z‘s Roc Nation as a Super Bowl Halftime Show production partner has helped bridge some of the social gap in recent years, but the echoes of Colin Kaepernick‘s on-field activism and unceremonious blacklisting still linger. Even today, new controversies continue find the league in problematic water despite the fact that the vast majority of its players are Black.

These artists, these times, and this game—played minutes away from Compton, the small city in L.A. county that birthed a new music universe—aligned poetically for this year’s Halftime Show. No, this wouldn’t fix the league, but it was a perfect opportunity for a culture with both global implications and fundamentally Black roots to have its long-deserved moment in the sun.

An elaborate stage set sprawled out below Dre, who arose behind a chic, white studio recording console, the platform from which he launched his empire. A Wes Anderson-like row of visual “moments” included in the set evoked the finer points of the Compton aesthetic—custom Cadillacs, famed night club Eve After Dark, Tam’s Burgers on West Rosecrans, the Martin Luther King memorial—while a dimly glowing street map of the city stretched out across the field.

Dre and Snoop opened things up with “The Next Episode”, one of several seminal tracks from 1999’s The Chronic 2001 that had defiantly demonstrated that these artists were still at the top of their game a decade on from their initial explosion in fame. Even now, a couple more decades on, when Snoop says, “when they bang this in the club, baby, you got to get up,” we listen. The fact that the club of the day was an L.A. Super Bowl—mere miles from Compton, as the world looked on—laid bare the amplitude of their generational impact on American culture.

The two then tipped their hats to the late Tupac Shakur, among the most lauded of all West Coast hip-hop exports, with “California Love”, Dre delivering his verse with a smile on his face and his eyes on the sea of fans.

One of the night’s biggest surprises followed, as the perviously unannounced 50 Cent dropped down from the ceiling of the massive set’s “club scene” for his Dre-produced 2003 breakout hit, “In Da Club”, a visual callback to the famous music video for the track. The Queen of hip-hop soul, Mary J. Blige, made her appearance next with a pair of her own hits from that era, 2001’s “Family Affair” (produced by Dr. Dre) and “No More Drama”.

Related: Dr. Dre Shares ‘GTA V’ Singles Ft. Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Anderson .Paak, More [Listen]

The non-stop show continued with Kendrick Lamar and his medley of “m.A.A.d. City” and “Alright”. Pulled from two of his two decade-defining, Compton-centric albums, 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city and 2015’s To Pimp A Butterfly, Lamar’s segment was both a nod to the show’s patriarch (Dre worked on both records) and a notable injection of activism; while more overtly controversial lines like “we hate po-po, wanna kill us dead in the street fosho” were glossed over, the material’s political undertones did not go unfelt.

Kendrick’s segment arrived complete with body doubles reminiscent of Eminem’s performance at the 2000 VMA‘s, bleached blonde hair and all. Rather than white tank tops, though, the Kendrick legion was immaculately dressed in black suits and “Dre Day” sashes, their hawkish movements—and Lamar’s ever-captivating mystique—evoking dystopian imagery not unlike The Matrix. That felt like Kendrick’s role in this show, after all—this was not just a celebration of the past but of the present and future it facilitated, and Lamar is clearly positioned as “the One” set to push this tradition into the next decade. (Speaking of, we’re oh so very ready for that new album, K.Dot. You know, whenever.)

With a brief interpolation (“35 summers in the makin’… I’m  talkin’ NWA“), Lamar passed the baton to Mathers, whose “Forgot About Dre” hook rang out as he rose from the bowels of the set. Em’s Oscar-winning, seize-the-day hit, “Lose Yourself”, served as an apt summation of this significant moment for hip-hop. For this segment, a full band including a horn section and drummer Anderson .Paak—yet another Southern California native son/Dre disciple—joined Eminem in action. The Silk Sonic drummer was clearly elated about his new gig, as evidenced by the “We’re with Eminem’s drummer” merch that popped up on his website soon after the show.

In one of the most talked-about moments of the spectacle, the Detroit rapper took a knee at the end of his section, paying homage to Kaepernick’s peaceful protest and addressing the systemically tenuous race relations that always seem to plague the National Football League in no uncertain terms.

Dre eventually made his way to the grand piano for the final song, finishing the 15-minute show backed by the rest of the performers. Dr. Dre and his protégés have revolutionized the game several times over, several decades over. Thankfully, he always seems to know the right time to pop up and remind us all just who he is. At the 2022 Super Bowl, with some of the biggest artists of a generation flanking him, fresh off a performance that will be talked about for years to come, the answer was right there in the name of the song, the final piece of this spectacular puzzle: “Still D.R.E.”. Don’t forget.

Watch the full show here or via the player below.

Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show – Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, More