Verzuz, the webcast series born out of quarantine earlier this year, has grown into must-see appointment viewing for music fans thanks to its nostalgia factor and behind-the-scenes appeal.
The Verzuz battles, featuring two musical artists who duke it out with songs, returned for its second season with Jeezy and Gucci Mane. The veteran rappers were the latest artists to battle it out, chronicling their hits and getting in some musical jabs in the process Thursday night at Magic City in Atlanta.
The series, created in March at the start of the coronavirus pandemic by legendary producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, began as a virtual DJ battle but has since evolved to a range of different musical styles, including R&B, hip-hop, gospel and dancehall.
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During the head-to-head event, Gucci Mane, 40, played his 2012 diss track “Truth” about fatally shooting Jeezy’s friend Pookie Loc, which prompted Jeezy, 43, to stand up and explain why the pair were doing the battle.
“When I said I wanted to do this (expletive) for the culture, that’s what I wanted to do… I brought you here to show you the world care about what the (expletive) we got going on, because we are the culture,” Jeezy said.
Jeezy also shouted out King Von, Nipsey Hussle, Pop Smoke and other rappers who died from gun violence before starting his own track, “Get Ya Mind Right.”
The two rappers reunited to perform their collaboration “Icy” for the first time in years to end the battle.
The battle, which also featured a video appearance from Stacey Abrams, garnered plenty of reactions from viewers on social media, with more than 1.5 million people tuning into last night’s IG live.
How Timbaland, Swizz Beatz started Verzuz
The series was created by producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, who were the first stars to participate during an Instagram Live broadcast in March.
During an interview with GQ published Thursday, the stars explained how the series was born after COVID-19 stay-at-home orders shut down clubs, leading people to look for things to entertain themselves with online – and people ate it up. GQ reports more than 20,000 people tuned in for the first swapping of stories and songs, which led the series to have its own official page and following participants.
Speaking to The Associated Press in April, Timbaland explained the lineup process.
“Me and Swizz sit down and we really kind of curate the matches well. We try to do the unpredictable, not what people predict. And that comes with a lot of work on me and Swizz’s part,” he said. “We have to make a lot of phone calls to get these celebrations lined up. It’s a process.”
Originally, Verzuz included artists streaming in live from separate locations with two 10-song rounds. In May, in order to ensure better video quality, the battles were filmed live from the same location.
Though no official winner is called at the end of the night, usually viewers share their own picks on social media.
Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg and more artists have participated
Some of the most notable early battles have included T-Pain vs. Lil Jon, Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott and Nelly vs. Ludacris. Teddy Riley and Babyface’s first attempt at their much-hyped battle was derailed by audio issues, but they didn’t miss a beat during their rematch, with more than 500,000 people tuning in.
Alicia Keys and John Legend took part in a Juneteenth celebration version of the series, and even more attention-grabbing lineups followed later in quarantine, including DMX vs. Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross vs. 2 Chainz and Brandy vs. Monica.
And after a short break following Gladys Knight vs. Patti LaBelle’s “Auntie-chella” battle in September, the series returned in Novembr for Season 2, kicking it off with Jeezy and Gucci.
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How to watch Verzuz
The series streams live on its official Instagram page (@VerzuzTV) as well as on Apple Music. Fans can also listen to the battles on playlists shared on TIDAL, Spotify and Apple Music.
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