JAY-Z is giving his candid thoughts about this year's Super Bowl halftime show, headlined by Maroon 5.
JAY-Z and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held a press conference on Wednesday to announce that the 49-year-old rapper's entertainment company, Roc Nation, is partnering with the NFL to be the league’s official Live Music Entertainment Strategists, as well as to support the NFL's social justice endeavors. The big move means, in part, that Roc Nation will advise the NFL on the selection of artists playing their various high-profile performances, including the Super Bowl halftime show.
ET was at the press conference held at the Roc Nation boardroom in New York City, where JAY-Z addressed turning down the Super Bowl halftime this year. He said he didn't like the selection process the NFL had, which ultimately led to Maroon 5 headlining the show with appearances by Travis Scott and Outkast's Big Boi. He said this year's Super Bowl was a big reason for his decision to partner with the NFL, even though more attention is being payed to his ties with Colin Kaepernick.
"Nobody -- with all due respect -- nobody mentions Adam Levine in this whole thing and the role he played in this," JAY-Z told reporters. "We all talk about Kaepernick, that's a hot button issue, but this is an entertainment company as well. We also have to discuss what happened ... what happened with the Super Bowl?"
"Well, we had to have a conversation right, because, there was a lot of talk around Adam Levine's performance in Atlanta, and me being vocal about stepping back from performing as well," he continued. "I think that sparked some of the conversation [with the NFL] as well."
JAY-Z then addressed why he had an issue with Scott's performance at the halftime show in February, noting that he thought that the 28-year-old rapper shouldn't have been a side act to any artist given his own success.
"Nobody asked about it, but my problem with Travis Scott wasn't about him not playing football, my problem was that he had the biggest year to me," he explained. "Last year, he had a monster record -- 'Sicko Mode' -- and he's playing on a stage with an M on it. I don't see any reason for him to play second fiddle to anyone that year and that was my problem."
JAY-Z described the NFL's process of picking Super Bowl performers as "fractured," and not being definitive enough.
"You take four artists and everyone thinks they're playing the Super Bowl, it's almost like this interview process," he shared, giving a typical situation from an insider perspective. "And so I pick Chuck, the other three people get upset. So, that's not even good math. After three years, nine people upset and three people played. ... I think the process should have been a little more definitive. ... You speak to someone and you let them have it and you move on. And I think then let the artists be artists."
JAY-Z also, of course, addressed the controversy surrounding his new partnership with the NFL, given the league getting criticized for its treatment of Kaepernick, who started the protest of kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racism against African-Americans in the United States. Kaerpernick claims he was essentially blackballed from the NFL afterward and has still not been signed on to a team. But a big part of the rapper's partnership with the NFL is to bring more attention to the league's Inspire Change platform, which was created for players to engage with team owners, public officials, law enforcement, academic institutions, community partners and others to identify meaningful ways to strengthen local communities and the greater society.
"I think that we forget that Colin's whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice, so in that case, this is a success -- this is the next thing," JAY-Z explained of the partnership. "There's two parts of protest: the protest, and then there's a company or individual saying, 'I hear you, what do we do next?' For me it's about actionable items, what are we gonna do about it?"
In a statement, JAY-Z also said, "With its global reach, the National Football League has the platform and opportunity to inspire change across the country. Roc Nation has shown that entertainment and enacting change are not mutually exclusive ideas -- instead, we unify them. This partnership is an opportunity to strengthen the fabric of communities across America."
ET spoke with Levine in January ahead of Maroon 5's halftime performance -- which ended up getting mixed reviews online -- about his decision to headline the show given all the controversy surrounding the NFL at the time. A source told ET last October that Rihanna was actually the front runner to play the halftime show, but she declined.
"No one thought about it more than I did," Levine told ET at the time. "No one put more thought and love into this than I did. ... I spoke to many people, most importantly though, I silenced all the noise and listened to myself, and made my decision about how I felt."
He also pointed out that the show would have the biggest hip-hop presence in Super Bowl history, and was particularly excited about having Scott join him onstage.
"So Travis ... he is it right now. He is the one," Levine said. "Like, this is a moment for him and we love what he does, obviously. We love what he represents because we love having a presence that this is the show that will have the biggest hip-hop presence that there has ever been on the show. I mean, I can't look back and find that to be the case before. He's it, he's the man right now and he comes in hot."
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Reporting by Rande Iaboni.