Say what you will about numbers and figures, but they ultimately mean one thing: People are buying these records. Even last year, when Nas proclaimed "Hip-hop is dead," hip-hop records accounted for more than 18 million of the Recording Industry Association of America's certified sales.

"I don't see why they wouldn't have hip-hop in the halftime show," Ludacris says. "I think it's great they've had some hip-hop before, and they should have more in the future. Because hip-hop and sports go hand in hand. They motivate each other. A lot of hip-hop artists like football, and a lot of football players like hip-hop."

That certainly seems true, if some football players' iPod playlists are any indication. New England Patriots wide receiver Donté Stallworth told The Boston Globe he listens to Tupac Shakur and Young Jeezy songs to get pumped up before games. His playlist also includes 50 Cent, T.I., and Kanye West. Legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice (he won three Super Bowl rings with the San Francisco 49ers) gave a list of his top 10 iPod songs to, and it included songs by Ludacris, Jay-Z, Yung Joc, and Tupac. San Diego Chargers fullback Lorenzo Neal listens to 50 Cent before games.

Wyclef Jean
Wyclef Jean
Tom Petty, old white guy: ZZZZZZZZ
Caroline Grayshock
Tom Petty, old white guy: ZZZZZZZZ

Some former football stars have even tried to embark on careers as hip-hop stars. Former Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones launched his own hip-hop label, National Street League Records, last year, with the first release coming from hip-hop duo Posterboyz (consisting of Jones and producer Spoaty). Former New York Giants cornerback Reggie Stephens is now known as rapper Famouz; he's got an album out on World Jam Records called Ghetto Passport.

In his column "NFL buffoons leaving terrible legacy," columnist Jason Whitlock says that because 70 percent of NFL rosters consist of African-Americans, and because "hip-hop is the dominant culture for black youth," there's a large amount of "rebellion and buffoonery of hip-hop culture" and "hip-hop athletes" in the NFL. Whether or not you agree with his assertion that this is bad for the game, it seems logical to have a Super Bowl halftime show with some hip-hop stars in it.

Ludacris suspects the lack of hip-hop in this year's halftime show stems from producers' fears of controversy. "It seems like a lot of the people who make those decisions are scared of hip-hop," he says with a laugh.

But Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the NFL, says there's been no conscious avoidance of hip-hop in halftime shows in the past, and there's only one reason there's no hip-hop act in the show this year.

"We have one act for the halftime show, and one act only, and that is Tom Petty," he says.

"I can send you a list of the past 42 years, and you can see the diversity of acts. We have a Pepsi concert series that Mary J. Blige is playing this year, and Kanye West was in our concert series a few years ago," McCarthy adds. "2004 was a big hip-hop show, with Diddy and Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson — I'm sure you remember that one. We've also had Nelly a few times, and Eve, Kid Rock, and Alicia Keys. We had Britney one year. Those are not all obviously hip-hop, but we've worked with a wide variety of acts over the years."

For "obviously hip-hop" acts this year, fans will have to hit the parties around the Valley, like those at Axis/Radius, where Diddy performs on Thursday with Pokafase. "This show is huge. My executive producer, Miko Waydy, has been in this business a long time and has ties with Bad Boy [Diddy's label]," Pokafase says. "And when he got me on this show, I was excited. I'll be performing, and so will Next, a great hip-hop act, and then Diddy, who always puts on a spectacle."

As for how the halftime show stacks up against the parties, Pokafase says, "Honestly, it's gonna be a way better show at Axis/Radius."

When the red carpet rolls out across Phoenix, and everybody from Hugh Hefner to Justin Timberlake strolls down it, many Valley clubs will host a bombastic buffet of live hip-hop music. Meanwhile, back at University of Phoenix Stadium, a bunch of roadies will be assembling a stage for a halftime show that most people will be able to resist talking about at the water cooler on Monday.

Because, let's face it, Tom Petty's a legend who writes terrific tunes, but he's not flamboyant and exciting, and he never has been. He's always been the guy who just gets onstage and plays some great rock 'n' roll — minus the controversies and pyrotechnics — and sends you home ready to smoke a joint, eat a cookie, and go to sleep with the riff from "Runnin' Down a Dream" running through your head.

Thankfully, with all the hullabaloo surrounding Super Bowl weekend, it's easy to find a soiree that fits the sexy, supercharged vibe of the game better than Petty. Many people will be compelled to watch the show anyway, but while they're listening to Tom Petty sing "American Girl" (because that line about rolling another joint in "You Don't Know How It Feels" obviously won't fly), somewhere in the locker room, the Pats' Donté Stallworth will probably be jamming to Tupac Shakur and thinking about dinner with Diddy.

Who can blame him?

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John Schroeder
John Schroeder

Yippee! Law enforcement will have a field day working overtime! Why don't they just call it niggerfest?


"Usher's club banger featuring Lil' John and Ludacris." - just so's ya knows, it's "Lil' Jon," no H. ask Luda.

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