I think I’ll need to begin this piece with something of a prolonged throat clearing of all the things I’m not saying. I’m not saying that Maroon 5 gave the worst super bowl performance of all time or that they were inherently bad choices to headline. I thought that their performance was fine and, though I don’t love a lot of their newest music, it did send me careening down memory lane as I quickly pulled up and revisited their excellent 2002 debut, Songs About Jane. I’m also not here to complain about the absence of Spongebob’s “Sweet Victory,” and the way it was used as an intro to “Sicko Mode,” although I am genuinely irate about this and could easily write another piece all about it.
Most importantly, I’m not headed into the territory of the many controversies which were ignored here. Put simply, Maroon 5 is not the band to salute Colin Kaepernick, speak out about the president’s many scandals, or make any other gesture of political dissidence. They aren’t Rage Against the Machine and they shouldn’t try to be. When Maroon 5 was chosen, they were expected to play a few hits, put on a light show, and finish out with a shirtless Adam Levine, all of which they accomplished with admirable precision.
The real missed opportunity has to do with location of this year’s Super Bowl, which was only ever so briefly made relevant by the ATLiens jerseys that appeared during Big Boi’s performance. While older hip-hop fans will remember the East and West coast feuds of 90’s hip hop, the 2000’s and on have been defined by a North and South dichotomy far more. Specifically, this has centered in two cities, Chicago and, to a much larger extent, Atlanta.
Just a short list of possible hometown choices would include Migos, who’s last two albums have gone platinum and double platinum respectively, Childish Gambino, who’s recent track “This is America,” has become an international sensation, or 21 Savage, who is nominated for two Grammys at the moment. This is just in terms of current acts.
As far as legacy artists, icons like Cee Lo Green, T.I, Lil Jon, Killer Mike, Future, Gucci Mane, Soulja Boy, and Usher are all on call and ready to electrify a hometown crowd. These are people who forged an entirely new brand of hip-hop and R&B into existence, taking a budding scene to the MainStage with flair and power and all but creating modern rap in the process. Of course, there are two glaring omissions from this list and it’s here where I start building my dream line up for Super Bowl LIII.
Headlining and masterminding the Brendon’s Beats halftime extravaganza is the single most important group in southern hip-hop, Outkast. Of course, we got half of Outkast with Big Boi, but the absence of his partner, Andre 3000, who is often named among the greatest rappers and most brilliant musical minds of all time, can’t be overstated. They could even bring a few Dungeon Family alumni with them. Reuniting one of hip-hop’s greatest groups would be enough, but it’s Atlanta. We can do better.
Travis Scott’s admittedly energetic performance of “Sicko Mode,” could be much better replaced by an appearance from the Migos performing their quadruple platinum smash-hit, “Bad and Boujee,” maybe even with a verse from 21 Savage in place of Lil Uzi Vert’s section on the original. It’s a performance that would excite young fans as much as Scott’s if not more, and the dynamic between the two rap groups from different generations, but the same city. So who is our rock/pop artist to act as an olive branch for non-rap fans?
There is none. I’d personally enjoy a legacy act like T.I. or Lil Jon, though a Gucci Mane or Soulja Boy would be fascinating in a chaotic way. The key is that this show should be a tribute to Southern hip-hop from the epicenter of it’s mainstream success and headlined by it’s most infamous pioneers.
I’ll be the first to admit that this dream lineup could probably never translate to the real world, especially as the odds of reuniting Outkast are slim to none, but the spirit could remain intact. There has never been a rapper or rap group headline the Super Bowl, despite the fact that rap music is, without a doubt, the most prevalent genre of music in the world and has been for nearly 20 years. It’s time for that to change, and baring the possibility of a super bowl in Compton, there is no city in America which is more historically apt to host this ground breaking show than Atlanta.
If all else fails, I’ll also accept a large screen at the fifty yard line that will play the entirety of Spongebob’s “Sweet Victory,” and the episode it came from for the adoring crowd.