Atlanta: Where Cardi B and Robert Kraft dance on stage
Cardi B, Meek Mill, Ludacris, the Migos and more set it off during Super Bowl week
We all love a good party, don’t we? Better than a good party is a good, VIP, you-have-to-be-somebody, know somebody or be somebody’s somebody to be up in the party-party, am I right?
Atlanta, of course, which hosted Super Bowl LIII — is the perfect city for a good time. This area is home to some of the most inventive and powerful hip-hop, rhythm and blues, and country music — the kinds of sounds that helped us ace high school homecomings, win fraternity stroll-offs and served as some of our first slow-dance soundtracks. The Undefeated ventured out to some of the hottest spots during Super Bowl week. Some of these were house parties at Grammy-award-winning musicians, others happened in arenas where NBA teams put on gravity-defying shows. Some were seated concerts. Others featured some of the best food, drinks and oddball pairings — prime example, Robert Kraft dancing on stage with Cardi B, wuuuut?
Below you’ll find our play-by-plays of all of the best parties. And specific to one of Atlanta’s most beloved football food staples, we rated each party on a scale of 1 to 5 lemon pepper wings. Paper Boi would be proud. Postscript: Miami’s legendary nightclub LIV is going to be living the dream all season.
Mercedes-Benz Big Game “Say The Word” ad celebration
The vibe: Mercedes-Benz, for just the fifth time in the company’s history, created a Super Bowl ad (see above). It features Ludacris, pro golfer Rickie Fowler, Looney Tunes characters and more.
Where: Mercedes-Benz Brand Center at Phipps Plaza
Performers: None in the traditional sense, but there was a music video put together by 5th-8th graders from Atlanta’s Ron Clark Academy with features from Ludacris, Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
Celebrities we saw: Ludacris, and former Beastie Boys spinner DJ Hurricane
Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn’t spot: N/A
Overheard: “That thing sexy a– as hell, bruh.” — One of the attendees talking about the A-Class.
Food factor: You don’t go to most of these events expecting to find a full spread. So salute to Mercedes for the variety. beef Wellington, lobster tacos, coconut shrimp, bread pudding, and their ridiculously tasty signature drink — appropriately titled “Say The Word.”
Lemon pepper wing rating: To be fair, a rating of 3.5 wings is sort of unfair. It wasn’t billed as a party, nor was it one. But when compared with the energy of so many other events, a 3.5 it is. A chill start to the week though. And given the madness that followed, perhaps that was for the best.
EA SPORTS BOWL
The mood: Years ago, this event was the signal that Super Bowl week was truly underway; the extended weekend began with current star NFL players (and in some cases power college players about to go pro) playing video game versions of themselves and their teammates in a wild Madden challenge. Somewhere along the way, the event added a musical act, and while folks noshed on appetizers and free-flowing drinks, you could rock out for 45 minutes or so while whatever headliner was performing. That’s not what this is now. Now it’s a full-on concert, the kind that’ll have you waking up the next day wondering where your voice went. No free-flowing drinks or food, but hours of wall-to-wall musical artists (this night was Atlanta-specific) on stage until the wee-hours.
Where: State Farm Arena, home of the Atlanta Hawks.
Performers: Lil Jon, Metro Boomin, 21 Savage, Migos, Lil Baby, Lil Yachty, Ludacris with Ciara and Jeezy.
Celebs we spotted on Instagram: Omari Hardwick — no red carpet photos, but he sure was enjoying himself at the concert via Instagram!
Overheard: A lot of rap-singing in unison. Lil Jon informed the nearly sold-out arena that almost none of them knew where the windows, or the walls were (from his 2002 hit with the East Side Boyz “Get Low”). Lil Jon corrected all that when he taught thousands of fans exactly where to swing their arms and into which direction — one of the cooler things that happened that night.
Food factor: Sadly, if you wanted to eat or drink, you had to pay for it as if you were at a basketball game or an actual concert. This is far different from years past, where there was food from walking servers, an open bar, and you could not purchase a ticket to get inside.
Lemon pepper wing rating: Five lemon pepper wings, because acts like Migos and Ludacris did full sets, making this a real-deal concert and not just a snack of a show. Ludacris went through all of the hits of his entire catalog.
TWD X ATL
Why that title: AMC’s The Walking Dead took over the Atlanta residence of legendary music producer Dallas Austin to help kick off Super Bowl week. The show — which returns for its midseason premiere on Feb. 10 — is shot in Atlanta.
Where: The Austintonian, which is how folks around here refer to Austin’s palatial Sandy Springs estate.
Celebrities we saw: Waka Flocka Flame, Norman Reedus, Dallas Austin, and Eddie Drummond.
Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn’t spot: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, DeAngelo Williams, DeSean Jackson, Tarik Cohen.
Overheard: “OH MY GOD!” This was actually heard a great deal, considering that actors dressed as zombies were moving throughout the party, scaring the heck out of partygoers when they least expected it.
Food factor: Shell-on gulf shrimp, tenderloin sliders, crab cakes, mini pizzas. Specialty drinks with heavy pours of vodka and tequila kept the crowd on its feet and moving while a DJ spun hit tracks.
Lemon pepper wing rating: 4.5 lemon pepper wings because the only thing that would have made this event more perfect was if Waka Flocka Flame rapped — and to be fair, he may have! The house is massive and the party pretty much happened in every room: the theater room, the upstairs kitchen and living room, the recording studios, and more.
CIA Culinary Kickoff
Why that title: First of all, not that CIA. The famed Culinary Institution of America (attended by late chef Anthony Bourdain) was fundraising for themselves and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Atlanta. After meaty entrees and football-shaped desserts, the better half of iconic ATL hip-hop duo Outkast, the one set to play the Super Bowl halftime show with Maroon 5 and Travis Scott, came straight from rehearsal to snatch souls from a small, grateful, well-heeled, sweaty and turnt crowd with hit after hit. On his 44th birthday! There’s no cipher in the world in which Antwan “Big Boi” Patton does not dominate, but when you actually do find him in the A? His ATL? It’s supernatural.
Performers: Big Boi, DJ Cutmaster Swift
Celebrities we saw: A.J. Calloway, NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, chef Charlie Palmer
Overheard: “Sorry, Miss Jackson!”
Food factor: Wine and more wine. And then some more wine.
Lemon pepper wing rating: A dozen. Easy.
T.I. & Friends Cascade Skating Party Hosted by Big Boi
Why that title: Anyone who’s seen the cult classic ATL knows that skating in Atlanta is a huge deal and a trip to Cascade shows why. There were whole entire grown-up humans in skate teams performing actual routines around the rink to trap music. It was beautiful.
Where: Cascade Family Skating
Celebrities we saw: Zaytoven
Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn’t spot: T.I., Big Boi (see above), Trouble, Jason Geter, Jhonni Blaze
Overheard: “People are like, ‘Yeah, you can fight, that’s cool … BUT CAN YOU SKATE?!”
Food factor: They had skating rink food like personal pizzas and slushies … and alcohol.
Lemon pepper wing rating: 3.5.
Bullpen Battle League Super Bowl Kickoff
The setup: Because while there are plenty of parties and open bars to get to, we know you really go to Super Bowl festivities for rap battles. The local Bullpen Battle League hosted some big names for an afternoon of competition, insults — and bars. Is this technically a party? No! But dammit, this is getting recapped.
Where: 621 North Ave. NE (Across from Ponce City Market where the gulliest of gully Atlantans hang).
Performers: Tay Roc, Brizz Rawsteen, Loso, Shotgun Suge and more
Celebrities we saw: Hitman Holla, D.C. Young Fly
Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn’t spot: Julio Jones
Overheard: “The Bible was a classic … but it’s no Illmatic” — Brizz Rawsteen, while battling.
Food factor: There was a bar and a menu but Holman and Finch is next door and I had to hold out for a burger.
Lemon pepper wing rating: 4. Can’t go wrong with some afternoon battle raps, though that may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Organized Noize x lululemon — “Celebrate Atlanta” Block Party
The legendary, Grammy-winning Organized Noize and lululemon began their partnership in 2017 with the This Is Yoga campaign. True to its description, the event was more of a jam session than anything. Despite it being cold outside, at least by Atlanta standards, the only focus inside was paying homage to The Art of Organized Noize.
Where: Terminal West
Performers: You know you’re in for a good night when as soon as you walk in, the legendary Kawan “KP” Prather is getting the crowd right just spinning through hits. His down South set is incredible, spinning hits from UGK, T.I., Ludacris, Jeezy, Outkast and more. The highlight of the night, though, was Sleepy Brown. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard him perform “Margarita” live. It’s one of the all-time great feel-good songs and it instantly turned a cold night in The A into a cookout. Also, hearing Bobby Valentino perform “Blackberry Molasses” was truly one of those “you had to be there” moments. I wasn’t expecting to attend a choir rehearsal, but there we were.
Celebrities we saw: The celebrities we saw were all on stage.
Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn’t spot: Everyone who was confirmed to be there was there.
Overheard: “That man said he wanted to buy me a drink from the bar. But it’s an open bar. N—-, please. Boy, bye.”
Food Factor: The food was decent. That’s a lie. It was good, but there was this one drunk dude in a fur coat who kept grabbing pork sliders and knocking the bread off the sandwiches and grabbing just random pieces of pork and eating them. Needless to say, that ended the food portion of the evening. But the open bar, though? **chef’s kiss** The bartenders were on point the entire night. They were quick, efficient and a pleasure to interact with. Most important? They were heavy-handed, too.
Lemon pepper wing rating: 5. Perfect event. Great music. Great vibes. Great drinks. Great people to chop it up with. There’s not much more we could’ve asked for. Other than an Outkast and Goodie Mob reunion on stage.
Thuzio’s Big Game Party
Why that title: Thuzio’s annual party is a great pregame event for Sunday’s festivities. Is it the must-attend party of the weekend? Unless you’re a fan of live auctions, then no.
Where: SweetWater Brewing
Performers: No performers, but the event was headlined by All-Pro running backs Adrian Peterson and David Johnson. It was, however, great to see drunk people bid on items and memorabilia. Some are very aggressive. Some are very calculated, reserved and quiet. It was a master class in people-watching.
Celebrities we saw: Adrian Peterson, Jonathan Ogden
Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn’t spot: N/A
Overheard: “Did he just stick his hand in there to grab chips? So f— the tongs then, huh?”
Food factor: Salute to Thuzio for the build-your-own-burger station, but that guy dipping his hand in the bowl of chips that were meant for everyone was a huge turnoff. That’s not on Thuzio, of course. But someone has to fall on this sword.
Lemon pepper wing rating: It was the first stop of the night and to be quite honest, it did what it was supposed to do. A solid 3 would suffice here.
Shaq’s Fun House
The layout: A carnival-themed extravaganza made famous by Shaquille O’Neal giving Rob Gronkowski piggyback rides. It is simply one of the wildest, most bizarre, sensory-overload events you can imagine. There are massage chairs (hashtag self-care) and mechanical bulls, merry-go-rounds and whack-a-moles and a whole entire Killer Mike Swag barbershop. And, of course, Shaq himself.
Where: The Battery
Performers: OK, get this lineup: T-Pain followed by Lil Jon followed by Cirque Du Soleil (Shaq on stage posing while people on stilts danced around him over techno music is what acid trips are made of), Diplo and Migos.
Overheard: “I was really good at the mechanical bull, but I was 11 last time I tried.”
Food factor: OK, this is where the Fun House shines. All the food was free. There was a Waffle House activation with tiny waffle triangles. A STK booth with baby Wagyu burgers that tasted like heaven.
Lemon pepper wing rating: 4. Yes, an open bar and all-you-can eat everything is fantastic and this event was close to a perfect 5-count of wings. But Shaq’s Fun House had the most god-awful house music I’ve ever heard. There were about eight rooms and they all had some sort of techno mashup version of “Sicko Mode” blasting at any given moment.
Migos @ The Masquerade
Why that title: Quavo, Offset and Takeoff were quite busy this weekend as one would expect. But there was a ton of synergy in the building. The concert was presented by Finish Line — where the Migos serve as creative directors. Upstairs at the bar, Martell was the drink of choice. Quavo and the cognac announced their sponsorship late last year. And let me tell you, those Martell bottles were a hot commodity.
Where: The Masquerade
Performers: It should go without saying but — Migos. Fantasy football guru Matthew Berry was there, too.
Celebrities we saw: Well, of course, the Migos, but Quality Control CEO Pierre “Pee” Thomas was moving throughout VIP before the trio hit the stage.
Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn’t spot: Everyone showed up who was supposed to be here.
Overheard: “Travis Porter walked so Migos could fly.”
Food factor: There was no food at the show, but judging by how many times people kept going back to the bar for fifth and sixth rounds of drinks — no one really cared about that. Migos didn’t go on stage until 11:40. By then, the savages had come out and it was a free-for-all between the bar and Migos running through a medley of hits.
Lemon pepper wing rating: For what it was, this gets a perfect 5. A well-put-together event that seemed to go off without a hitch.
2 Chainz’s “Honor Your Code” Party
Why that title: Courvoisier sponsored the event and “Honor Your Code” is the cognac’s catchphrase. That’s really all there is to it.
Performers: The Artist Formerly Known As Tity Boi aka Dos Necklaces aka 2 Chainz.
Celebrities we saw: To be fair, the club was dark aside from the stage. But Love & Hip Hop Atlanta fans will be pleased to know Kwabena “K.” Botchey was the night’s host.
Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn’t spot: Other than 2 Chainz himself.
Overheard: “2 Chainz’s hair is always so immaculate. He must sleep in a silk bonnet.”
Food factor: There was food earlier in the evening, but by the time we showed up, it was all gone. Complimentary drinks of Courvoisier were flowing like the Nile all night, though.
Lemon pepper wing rating: This gets a 5. Even with all his success, 2 Chainz is still one of the more underrated MCs in the game. That being said, he’s got some fire on deck with his new album Rap Or Go To The League — a dope title if we’re keeping it funky. His 2019 Album of the Year prediction is looking quite accurate right now.
We’re partying because: DirecTV is celebrating 25 years of NFL Sunday Ticket (feel old yet?) and wanted to give us some Atlanta flavor hosted by one of the city’s favorite writers, Rembert Browne.
Where: Amalfi Pizza
Performers: No performers but the best (and uncredited!) DJ of the entire weekend so far. Lots of classic Southern hits blaring all night and the first place I heard “Ain’t Gon’ Let Up” all week.
Celebrities we saw: Emmitt Smith and John Rocker. Seriously. What is life?
Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn’t spot: Nope. It was mostly regular folks (and Emmitt Smith) hanging out.
Overheard: “The bartender is slicing ice with a machete, but I just want a drink.”
Food factor: There was no food but the bar was, again, open.
Lemon pepper wing rating: 5. This was the perfect late-night kickback to wind down Friday night. It was beautiful. It was never too crowded and a cigar room in the back was great for laid-back conversation and sticks. The music was great. More of this, please.
Motown Presents: Welcome To Atlanta Happy Hour
Sound effects: The label responsible for creating the music that changed the world would naturally want to celebrate in Atlanta, the city that has picked up the torch of delivering legendary, genre-shifting music from black creatives.
Where: The Masquerade, 50 Lower Alabama St., Atlanta
Performers: ATL’s Migos, who took the stage at a later event in the same space.
Celebrities we saw: The Migos and a bunch of folks who looked like somebody — or maybe we’ve just seen them on various Love & Hip Hop series?
Overheard: Nothing, because the music the DJ was spinning was so loud that it was difficult to hear anyone else — and we didn’t mind that one bit, considering all the hits that were spinning!
Food factor: A make-your-own taco bar, mini beef sliders, truffled hot dogs, sweet potato fries, regular fries and a bar serving up Martell cocktails, champagne and beer — chef’s kiss!
Lemon pepper wing rating: 5, because you feed us, serve us delish things to nosh on, give us good music and a comfy couch to sit on and we’re pretty happy. Can’t go wrong here!
The Maxim Big Game Experience
Game time: Maxim gives must-attend parties at just about every major event every year and the Super Bowl was no different. The swankiest of the swank showed up to enjoy music they didn’t know the words to.
Where: The Fairmont
Performers: Future, Yo Gotti, Jamie Foxx, Zaytoven — Foxx had the longest set of jokes, singing some of his classics and being a generally great entertainer. Future’s and Yo Gotti’s sets were about eight minutes each, sadly.
Celebrities we saw: Shingy, Adrian Peterson, Warren Moon, LaDainian Tomlinson.
Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn’t spot: Meek Mill.
Overheard: “I’ve never heard ‘Swag Surf’ in Atlanta and nobody ever swag surfed.”
Food factor: Yet another Waffle House installation with waffle slices and hash browns.
Lemon pepper wing rating: 3.5 because Future’s and Yo Gotti’s sets were so short. Also, the crowd didn’t appreciate them anyway, nor did the crowd respect the classics that were being played. Foxx was great, though, and open bars always get bonus points.
Stay Gold: Run The Jewels Afterparty
The authentic one: Earlier in the evening, Run The Jewels and Foo Fighters performed in Atlantic Station and held an afterparty in the legendary Edgewood area a few feet down from Killer Mike’s Swag Shop.
Where: The Music Room
Performers: Prince Paul, Just Blaze, Trackstar The DJ, Diamond D, Rock Most
Celebrities we saw: This was for the diehard rap fans.
Overheard: “Can I ask him if his hat makes his head hot? Would that be OK?”
Food factor: Better hit up Waffle House on the way home.
Lemon pepper wing rating: 4.5. No fancy outfits. No red carpets. Just great music all night. The best parties of Super Bowl are definitely the ones that fly just under the radar. Trackstar, who is the Run The Jewels’ DJ, stole the show and closed out with “Watch For The Hook” — a walk-off home run.
Michael Rubin’s Fanatics Super Bowl Party
Baller alert: Michael Rubin is a man who wears many hats. He’s part owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and of the New Jersey Devils. He’s the owner of one of the most expensive penthouses in America (and probably the world). He’s the CEO of Kynetic, which oversees Fanatics, the global leader in licensed sports merchandise. This was, in the most literal sense, his party, and he invited an enormous amount of famous people. He’s close friends and now business partners with Meek Mill — the rapper he credits with opening his eyes to criminal justice reform. But he’s “only” No. 271 on Forbes’ billionaires list. There’s always room for improvement.
Where: College Football Hall of Fame.
Performers: Meek Mill and Cardi B
Celebrities we saw: The list is massive. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Emmitt Smith, A.J. Calloway, Matt Ryan, Julius Erving, Jason Taylor, Peyton Manning, Bernie Kosar, Thurman Thomas, Taylor Rooks, Jesse Palmer, Angela Yee, DJ Envy, Matthew Berry, Robert Kraft, Dan Marino, Jonathan Ogden, Urban Meyer, Kevin Hart, Jon Bon Jovi, Anthony Munoz, Jim Brown, Jerome Bettis, Aaron Judge, Melvin Ingram, DeAngelo Hall, Jamal Adams and, of course, Meek Mill and Cardi B.
Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn’t spot: If they missed somebody, that person probably wasn’t within a 300-mile radius of Atlanta.
Overheard: “I’m drowning myself in sushi. Don’t bother saving me.”
Food factor: **chef’s kiss** Rubin went all out with the food. The spread was incredible. Sugar-glazed figs, shrimp and cucumber sandwiches, barbecued pork sliders, crispy asparagus and a full sushi bar with a chef making rolls in real time — come for Cardi B and Meek Mill, but stay for the toro.
Lemon pepper wing rating: This gets a 4.5. Maybe it’s the music snob in me, but Meek Mill running through “I’m A Boss,” “What’s Free,” “Going Bad” and the “Dreams & Nightmares Intro” with very little crowd participation was disappointing. Not surprising, but disappointing. And Robert Kraft dancing with Cardi B as she performed “Money” — there’s a lot to say about that, but right here isn’t the right space. The best aspect about the afternoon was the space. Unless you wanted to be right up on the stage, there was plenty of room to move around, which makes a world of difference at events of this kind.
GQ NFL Honors After-Party
Stylin’ on ’em: Those who attend the NFL Honors pulled up on GQ’s after-party to keep the festivities going.
Where: Gallery 874
Performers: This was my first time hearing a DJ set by Taco in person. Dude’s good. He had a run where he went from Frank Ocean and Migos’ “Slide” into Jay-Z’s “Change Clothes,” Snoop Dogg and Pharrell’s “Let’s Get Blown” and Luther Vandross’ “All My Love.” The way he mixed them together was fire. We raised our glasses out of sheer respect.
Celebrities we saw: Chanel Iman, Sterling Shepherd, Mike Will, Keegan-Michael Key, Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Draya Michele
Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn’t spot: Swae Lee, DeAndre Hopkins and Fonzworth Bentley.
Overheard: Some legendary quotes came out of this party. There’s “Chanel Iman is so bad, bro. You really gotta respect it when two beautiful people make a beautiful person like this. This shot is for Chanel Iman’s parents. Bless you both, whoever you are.” And then there’s, “What in the entire f— is Kyler Murray doing waiting outside to get in? The man just won the Heisman and he’s standing in a line? This country is going to hell in a handbasket.”
Food factor: They had this puff pastry with gruyere cheese and caramelized onions that was unbelievable. The burgers and fries provided by Shake Shack were superclutch, too.
Lemon pepper wing rating: It wasn’t the most lit event of the weekend, but GQ had a vibe it embarked upon and they nailed it with the top shelf open bar and the dimly lit ambience. Combine that with good food and great conversations about a variety of topics that had nothing to do with football. This gets a 5.
Rolling Stone Live: Atlanta
Why that title: Presented by Mercedes-Benz via a partnership with LDV Hospitality, Rolling Stone held court in Atlanta with its own bash. The event was put together by the creative strategy firm Skylight.
Where: The Goat Farm Art Center
Performers: Ludacris, Young Thug, Gunna and Lil Keed.
Celebrities we saw: Young Thug, Questlove and Deon Cole
Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn’t spot: Ludacris, Gunna, Robin Givens, CeeLo Green, Kenya Moore, Ty Burrell and Cynthia Bailey
Overheard: “I didn’t plan on cheating this weekend, but here we are.”
Food factor: The food situation was a mystery. There was food, but apparently we needed another wristband to get upstairs — despite having a wristband that clearly said “VIP.” It was close to 1 in the morning by this point, and we didn’t have the energy to offer a rebuttal.
Lemon pepper wing rating: Food would have at least taken this up a half point, but to be completely honest, Rolling Stone had a sweet setup. Perhaps the best of any party this weekend. The Goat Farm Art Center is situated among the ruins of an old cotton gin factory. Just like the Fanatics party, space was a huge plus here as well. 4 wings.
Super Bowl Music Fest
Why that title: This was Night Three of Bud Light’s superconcert takeover, a different take on what they’ve done in years past.
Where: State Farm Arena
Performers: Cardi B and Bruno Mars
Celebrities we saw: Lil Jon, who made a surprise performance.
Overheard: “I just put a ring on it and brought her here!” said one excited man to everyone in section 105; he was making the connection that Cardi B would appreciate the bling he bestowed on his beloved. He’s probably right.
Food factor: Paid for concession food and drinks, but, hey, it’s a concert and it’s Cardi and Bruno.
Lemon pepper wing rating: 5. Because this is the concert tour we were all robbed of when Cardi B had to understandably be with newborn baby Kulture. This wasn’t the full-scale Bruno Mars show, but it was close to it. A nearly sold-out crowd rocked until well past midnight with tunes from one of the most dynamic R&B musicians on the planet. Also cool, was when Cardi B asked the crowd to “make some noise if you’re excited to see Maroon 5 tomorrow” — because she’s taking a stand and not performing because of her support for Colin Kaepernick — before she launched into her verse on halftime acts Maroon 5’s song “Girls Like You,”on which she is featured.