Thirty years after his smash 1992 album "The Chronic" made him a superstar — and established Los Angeles as a rap-music capital to rival New York — Dr. Dre will lead a hip-hop dream team in the halftime show at Super Bowl LVI.
Set for Feb. 13 at Inglewood's SoFi Stadium, not far from where he grew up in Compton, the performance will put the producer, rapper and former N.W.A member together with four artists who span much of the length of his long career: Snoop Dogg, who helped Dre create the Southern California sound known as G-funk; Eminem, whom Dre signed to his Aftermath label; Mary J. Blige, the R&B singer and Oscar-nominated actress; and Kendrick Lamar, whose rise to voice-of-a-generation status involved an early Dre co-sign. In anticipation of the show, here's a playlist compiling three essential songs by each act: a huge hit anyone is sure to know, a second track beloved by fans and a deep cut for further study.
"Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang," feat. Snoop Dogg (1992)
A No. 2 hit on Billboard's Hot 100 — in an era when the only rap songs topping the chart included Kris Kross' "Jump" and Snow's "Informer" — G-funk's defining track set unflinching lyrics about sex and gang violence against a gorgeously laidback groove few pop fans could resist.
"Still D.R.E.," feat. Snoop Dogg (1999)
Dre famously hired Jay-Z to ghost-write his comeback single after a few years in which he did more producing than rapping. He chose well: "Haters say Dre fell off/ How, n—? My last album was 'The Chronic,'" Dre asks, chewing into Jay's words with cool precision. "They wanna know if he still got it."
"Animals," featuring Anderson .Paak (2015)
Produced by DJ Premier, one of the architects of New York hip-hop, this East Coast/West Coast match-up showcases a surprisingly fiery Dre verse that looks back to N.W.A's epochal "F— Tha Police."
"Who Am I (What's My Name)?" (1993)
Given his star-making turn on "The Chronic," Snoop hardly required an introduction for his debut solo single. But the one he offered, amid a bouncy interpolation of George Clinton's "Atomic Dog," cemented his place as a signature voice of '90s hip-hop.
"Drop It Like It's Hot," featuring Pharrell (2004)
Snoop's creative collaboration with Pharrell has been almost as fruitful as his partnership with Dre. This slinky slide-whistle tune earned him his first No. 1 on the Hot 100.
"California Roll," featuring Stevie Wonder (2015)
Another quirky Pharrell-produced joint, this one from the duo's overlooked "Bush" album, that emphasizes Snoop's sing-song flow (not to mention his expansive Rolodex).
"Lose Yourself" (2002)
Eminem's Oscar-winning give-it-your-all jam sounds like it was made to be played at high-stakes sporting events. But it's also a canny bit of self-mythologizing that has long outlasted its appearance in the rapper's biopic-ish "8 Mile": Last year, Eminem opened a restaurant in his native Detroit named after his indelible line from "Lose Yourself" about Mom's spaghetti.
This vivid tale of a dangerously obsessed Eminem fan is somewhat less suited to the emotional demands of the Super Bowl. As a storyteller, though, Em has never surpassed the verses he laid down here over a haunting Dido sample.
"Going Through Changes" (2010)
Much of Eminem's mid- to late-career work has veered between unbearably maudlin and unbearably petulant. This tortured account of addiction charts a middle path thanks in part to the use of Ozzy Osbourne's bleary wail.
Mary J. Blige
"Family Affair" (2001)
The funky, shoulder-rocking beat lets you know right away that Dr. Dre was in the producer's seat. But only Blige could sell this exuberant chart-topper's lovably slangy lyric about needing "no hateration, holleration in this dancery."
"Real Love" (1992)
Blige's breakout single didn't just launch her career; it also heralded the plush but streetwise hip-hop-soul sound that changed R&B in ways still echoing decades later.
A witty, bluesy highlight from the singer's underappreciated "The London Sessions" LP, for which she teamed with a crew of young British record-makers with interesting ideas about blending new and old.
Inspired by a trip to South Africa, Lamar's unofficial Black Lives Matter anthem contrasts visions of despair in the verses — "We hate po-po/ Wanna kill us dead in the street for sure" — with a chorus of defiant optimism.
"B—, Don't Kill My Vibe" (2012)
G-funk lives on in this spacy, low-slung track about the temptations of fame and the purpose of art.
The dizzying closer of Lamar's "Damn." album tells the improbable tale of a long-ago meeting between Lamar's father and the head of his record label — a meeting, he says, that might easily have ended in his dad's death. Thrilling yet densely detailed, it's like a movie in four minutes.
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