A star-studded cast, including Sounds of Blackness, Erica Campbell, Sheila E., Donnie McClurkin and Snoop Dogg, will head up the 19th Annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration Thursday at Bethel University in Arden Hills.
Yes, Snoop Dogg the rapper is set to perform. The West Coast rap veteran will premiere Snoop Dogg Presents the Bible of Love, his first Gospel album — R&B singer Faith Evans, Gospel notables Tye Tribbett, The Clark Sisters, and Rance Allen are expected to join him on stage for his live performance.
“Like everyone else, I was kind of floored” admitted Melanie Few, the show’s creator and executive producer, when BET told her of the rapper’s appearance on her show. “They said they really want him to be a part of Super Bowl Gospel,” she told the MSR in a sit-down interview.
But she learned that Snoop Dogg is more than just a rapper. “I did my research. What I determined was that Snoop’s youth football league has mentored hundreds of young boys that have gone on to great careers — 21 current NFL players came out of his youth football league. He has poured into them financially, and many of them are fatherless. His action is his ministry,” Few learned.
She was also impressed that Snoop said he is releasing his first Gospel effort because of his religious upbringing. “Snoop knows the Word,” Few said. “His mother is an evangelist. He said he had been wanting to do it for a while, but he didn’t do it because ‘I know that I’m flawed. I know that people tend to be judgmental.’”
“Once we heard the album, and the uplifting messages on the album,” there was no problem including Snoop Dogg on the program, Few said. “We knew that there would be some backlash.”
Snoop’s fears, however, have been somewhat realized as some have taken to social media to express their displeasure about the rapper’s announced appearance on the program, especially at a predominately White Christian-based college campus.
“I’m so concerned… I’m praying for Bethel leadership to reconsider inviting Snoop Dogg to campus,” wrote one person on social media.
“…[H]aving a foul-mouthed, weed-smoking man to do a Gospel event is very saddening,” wrote another.
“We step out here on faith,” Few confirmed. “He has some great music. It is really wonderful, uplifting and spiritual. He’s not perfect, but neither [am] I,” she noted.
“He said that God loves [him] and it kept weighing on him to do it. He realizes that his children don’t know Gospel, and he realizes that this next generation, those kids don’t know Gospel music.”
When asked what inspired her to put on such an event almost two decades ago, Few said, “I had gone to Super Bowls over the years and realized that there was no Gospel event. I wrote the NFL for seven years and got seven years of rejection letters.”
But the eighth year the league finally relented, she said proudly on launching the Gospel Celebration in Miami during Super Bowl weekend in 1999. It is the first and only Gospel concert sanctioned by the NFL, and it has grown into a nationally televised event over the years, including sellout crowds in several Super Bowl host cities such as Dallas, Tampa, Detroit, Jacksonville, Houston and Phoenix.
“I’m excited that this will be our 19th annual event,” Few declared. This year’s event at Bethel’s Benson Great Hall will be hosted by Yvonne Orji of HBO’s Insecure and Pastor John Gray of OWN’s The Book of John. The NFL Players Choir, which features 40 current and former NFL players, will be on hand as they celebrate their 10-year anniversary.
Two current NFLers will be honored with first-ever awards during the event: Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. (Arizona) is receiving the Lifetime of Inspiration Award, and Seattle’s Russell Wilson is receiving the Faith in Action Award. “I’m super-thrilled and super-excited about that,” Few stressed.
BET for the fifth straight year will tape Thursday’s show and later broadcast it on Saturday, February 3 at 10 pm Central time, with rebroadcasts on Super Bowl Sunday (10 am CST) and on BET HER (formerly Centric) at 7 am CST Sunday as well.
Few surmised that Snoop’s appearance Thursday could be a game-changer for Gospel music. “One of every four people says Gospel is their favorite type of music. It transcends race, age — it transcends a lot. The fact that we are at a White Christian school to me speaks to the fact that maybe we will bring some African Americans or other races that would have never gone over there for any other reason,” Few said.
Bringing her show to the Cities this week “is very important,” Few reiterated. “This is the biggest game on earth. The fact that you have Gospel as part of that” is great, she concluded. “I’m just thrilled to be in Minnesota. The nicest people I have ever met [are] here in Minneapolis.”
Tickets for the 19th Annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration are being sold at Ticketmaster.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.