uring Sunday night’s Super Bowl halftime performance, Justin Timberlake gave a tribute to Prince, as he played in the late musician’s home state of Minnesota. With an image of Prince projected and lit up in purple, behind him, Timberlake sat at a piano and sang a few bars of “I Would Die 4 U.” The move sparked some controversy, especially from fans who remembered that Prince and Timberlake had a feud about 11 years ago and disapproved of Timberlake’s honoring Prince. But during his post-Super Bowl appearance on a live taping of The Tonight Show in Minneapolis, Timberlake attempted to clear the air on that one.
Timberlake said that he had asked the Roots drummer, Questlove, a friend of Prince’s, if the tribute would be appropriate: “Questlove is the encyclopedia on music, but I also feel like a gatekeeper on Prince, so if I got the thumbs-up from Questlove, I’m good,” he said. Questlove responded, “Yeah, it was good.”
Though Questlove gave the all-clear, some Prince fans remembered exactly what happened more than a decade ago. Timberlake, who had what Variety said was a controversial listening party for his new album, Man of the Woods, at Prince’s estate, Paisley Park, last Thursday, had some beef with the musician when he dissed Prince on Timbaland’s 2007 track, “Give It to Me.”
This was more of a back-and-forth lyrical diss. During a 2006 post-Emmy Awards party, Prince reportedly said, in reference to Timberlake’s 2006 hit, SexyBack: “For whoever is claiming that they are bringing sexy back, sexy never left!” During “Give It to Me,” Timberlake retorted with, “We missed you on the charts last week. Damn, that’s right, you wasn’t there. Now if se-sexy never left, then why is everybody on my shi-i-it? Don’t hate on me just because you didn’t come up with it.”
As Genius pointed out, Timberlake also made fun of Prince’s 5’3 height at the 2007 Golden Globes, when Prince won for “The Song of the Heart” from Happy Feet.Prince was not at the ceremony, so Timberlake, who presented the award, ducked down to a low stance at the microphone and accepted the Globe on his behalf.
During his Tonight Show spot, Timberlake left out their previous drama and paid his respects instead:
“It’s a moment for me, and if I’m being quite honest, it’s because he’s always been the pinnacle of musicianship,” Timberlake said. “And when we decided that the serendipity and synergy [of being] in Minnesota—he’s such a special thing here, aside from what he is all over the world. I just felt like I wanted to do something for this city and something for him that would just be the ultimate homage to what I consider the G.O.A.T. [Greatest of All Time] of musicians.”