The NBA is closely associated with hip hop music and boasts a fanbase much younger than those of other major U.S. leagues. But basketball's biggest cultural showcase -- the halftime show of the NBA All-Star Game -- won't turn to the Billboard charts in 2014. Instead, the league is guaranteeing a festive atmosphere with legendary genre-bending band Earth, Wind & Fire, R&B singer Janelle Monae and several New Orleans jazz performers.
The show will begin around 9 p.m. Eastern on Sunday on TNT.
The Chicago-based Earth, Wind & Fire -- founded in 1969, but still actively touring -- is known for its unique blend of pretty much every flavor of boisterous music you can draw up. The band's best work is stylized funk, and the most well-known song in their lineup is "Shining Star." It seems like a pretty safe bet they'll trot it out in New Orleans.
Janelle Monae is the requisite young addition to the halftime show, though interestingly she's seen more critical acclaim than solo pop success (with one massive exception to that latter claim). Casual music fans tuning into halftime will best know her from Fun's 2012 megahit "We Are Young." Monae got her industry start with appearances on Outkast's Idlewild before signing to Bad Boy Records in 2006. Her latest solo album, 2013's The Electric Lady, was the No. 21 R&B album in the United States on Billboard's year-end list, but earned critical acclaim. Her style would seem to mesh perfectly with that of EW&F. Here's the video for Monae's "Q.U.E.E.N." feature Erykah Badu.
EW&F and Monae will be joined by New Orleans jazz legend Dr. John. Texan blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr. and New Orleans-based Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue will perform as well.
The NBA held All-Star Weekend in New Orleans back in 2008, as well, and also went with a Crescent City theme on the halftime show. It was a pretty big hit even though, like 2014, it was a departure from the typical show.
The NBA will trot a number of hip hop acts throughout the weekend, though, just not during Sunday's halftime. Stud rapper Kendrick Lamar is scheduled to perform on Saturday before the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, and the All-Star Game pre-game performance will be led by Pharrell Williams with guests Snoop Lion, Diddy, Busta Rhymes and Nelly. Yes, four of those five performers are older than Steve Nash. (Nelly is about nine months younger.)