Roc Nation’s Desiree Perez on Super Bowl Halftime: ‘This Is Rihanna’s Iconic Moment’

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 23: In this image released on September 23, Rihanna is seen during Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 3 presented by Amazon Prime Video at The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in Los Angeles, California; and broadcast on September 24, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 3 Presented by Amazon Prime Video)

A full year has passed since last year’s Super Bowl, and still, people cannot stop talking about the halftime show. For the first time in NFL history, hip-hop took center stage. Over 103 million people tuned in to watch on TV, with another 161 million views on YouTube. It cemented that this is the era of Roc Nation.

In fact, since Roc Nation first started putting together the halftime show in 2019, every performance has been memorable. Jennifer Lopez and Shakira invited Bad Bunny to join in their celebration of Latin culture. The Weeknd brought After Hours to life in 2020. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and Eminem paid homage to Los Angeles for the show at SoFi Stadium. Their performances can all be summed up in one word: Success.

“Success is hip-hop culture on the biggest stage on earth and making history by being the first halftime show to win the Emmy for ‘Outstanding Variety Show,’” Roc Nation CEO Desiree Perez tells Pollstar via email. “Success is a small Black and brown-owned, culturally diverse, women-led company executive producing one of the most critically acclaimed and lauded halftime shows ever. During a critical year in our country’s history, success is uniting a country through music.” 

The only question left now is, “How will Roc Nation ever top last year’s show?” The answer? With Rihanna.

This is not the first time Rihanna was offered the halftime show. In 2018, she was a possible candidate for the Super Bowl in Atlanta. But, amid the controversy surrounding Colin Kaepernick not getting signed to any teams after he left the 49ers and became a free agent in 2017, Rihanna reportedly dropped out in protest. To this day 58% of the NFL is made up of Black players and 71% of players are people of color. NFL ownership is 95.3% white. There are no Black owners. 

In August 2019, the NFL brought on Jay-Z and Roc Nation to helm the halftime show as a commitment to showcase the diversity that exists among the players. The move came following the controversy surrounding Maroon 5 performing at the 2018 halftime show after Rihanna declined. 

“The only way to see the change you envision is by being part of that change,” Perez says. “Roc Nation has become part of the cultural movement within the NFL, and we are proud to be creating the difference from within.” 

Desiree Perez (Photo courtesy of Roc Nation)

Roc Nation also aims to help dismantle racial inequalities within the NFL through the Inspire Change platform. The social justice initiative works with the Players Coalition supporting programs and initiatives reducing racial barriers, including education and economic advancement, police and community relations and criminal justice reform. 

“The NFL has committed to sustain its social justice programs with financial and awareness campaign support,” Perez says. “We’ve seen the Inspire Change organization grow, and the NFL has embraced having Roc Nation at the table as partners along with many incredible organizations. The bar for our mutual goals is intentionally high in our pursuit of a more equitable America.”

In their fourth year, Roc Nation knows what they’re doing. They aren’t worried about topping last year’s lauded performance. They’re bringing fans something entirely different. A performance unique to Phoenix. 

“We have learned that every year is a unique experience, as unique as each artist and stadium,” Perez says. “The key is working with a diverse team of professionals with the pure intention of creative impact and bringing positive energy to every city.”

The timing for Rihanna to take the stage is impeccable. In 2018, she was more focused on her brand as a business owner. Last year saw her release her new single, “Lift Me Up” from the recent “Black Panther” sequel — Rihanna’s first non-feature single since she released ANTI in 2017. With Roc Nation also her management company, her performance is a no-brainer.

“Rihanna is an icon and this is her perfect moment,” Perez says. “It was a family conversation.”