Jermaine Dupri didn’t actually perform “Welcome to Atlanta” during the final night of Super Bowl Live, the week-long free concert series that took place in Centennial Olympic Park ahead of the big game, but he didn’t have to. The lineup he curated for the final show offered Super Bowl week’s best, most accessible overview of the city’s cultural history.
Residents and visitors alike packed into Centennial Olympic Park for a musical journey through various decades and Atlanta neighborhoods during Saturday’s show. Cultural hubs such as the Jellybeans skating rink in southwest Atlanta and Shyran’s Showcase in Decatur are no longer around, but their legacy lived on through the words and the music of the local artists who graced the stage. Before DJ Smurf’s closing set began, Jermaine Dupri took the stage hinting at what was to come, telling fans the show would be for “the real Atlanta.”
Helmed by DJ Smurf, also known as Mr. Collipark, the final set kicked off with Atlanta favorite Kilo Ali performing hits such as “Baby Baby” and “Nasty Dancer” before Raheem the Dream had the crowd screaming the hook of “That’s Right,” 12 Gauge made the audience beg with “Dunkie Butt,” A-Town Players invited people to revisit the Bankhead Bouncing to “Wassup, Wassup” and more. As promised, K.P. and Envyi appeared, performing “Swing My Way” and Tag Team revisited their massive hit “Whoomp (There It is).”
Ying Yang Twins ended the set with a twerkfest that included “Whistle While You Twerk” and, of course, “Get Low.”
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Ghost Town DJs did not perform as billed because, according to DJ Smurf, the lineup that had been promoted by the Super Bowl Host Committee was his “dream list” and not the list of artists that had actually been confirmed. Freak Nasty also couldn’t make it due to an illness in his family. The crowd didn’t seem to notice any of the absences, though. They were actively engaged in the show, singing along and dancing from the minute DJ Smurf took his place behind the booth.
DJ Smurf wasn’t the only one harkening back to “old Atlanta” in his set. YoungBloodz, Brick and Monica performed on the Super Bowl Live stage, too. Each act represented a different era of Atlanta, but the atmosphere throughout the night remained the same. Fans in the crowd weren’t celebrating the New England Patriots or the Los Angeles Rams, they were fully emerging themselves in Atlanta’s culture, both past and present.
Monica, the College Park native who broke out in 1995 with hits such as “Before You Walk Out My Life” and “Don’t Take It Personal,” said she appreciated that Dupri personally called her to enlist her for the lineup. Her set harkened back to the ‘90s when she ruled the airwaves alongside fellow Atlanta R&B singers like Usher and TLC. It was also a reminder of the role Dupri has played in the singer’s career, including co-producing and co-writing songs such as “U Should’ve Known Better” in 2003 and “Love All Over Me” in 2010.
“I feel like it was important for [visitors] to get a taste of what the real Atlanta music scene is like. It’s just a reminder that when they say the South got something to say, there’s a definitive meaning behind it,” Monica said after her set, referencing Andre 3000’s famous speech from the 1995 Source Awards.
Ahead of his set, DJ Smurf said he was appreciative of the opportunity to perform the closing set for Super Bowl Live because it demonstrated how important hip-hop is to Atlanta.
“The fact that [Dupri] put us last was the ultimate homage to hip-hop in Atlanta,” he said. “If you’re not from the culture, you might not even get the significance of what’s about to happen tonight. This is huge.” The night certainly was huge. The Super Bowl Host Committee wouldn’t reveal the estimated number of attendees, but the park had reached capacity by 7 p.m. In his closing remarks, Dupri put the crowd size at about 50,000. (For reference, when Outkast packed out the park for their ATLast festival, about 20,000 people were in attendance per day.)
Dupri previously told The Root that he viewed the Super Bowl Live series as “more important than halftime.”
“You have this many people in town, and 50 percent of the people might not go to the game,” he said. “They’re just checking out the city, and why not give them the music? Why not give them the soundtrack while they’re there? Why not give them something they really won’t forget?
The final night of Super Bowl Live was certainly something that residents and visitors who love Atlanta and its cultural history aren’t likely to forget.