Arts & Entertainment

Quarantine Ingenuity Gives Birth to “Verzuz Battles”

Madison Holmes

Hip hop icons, Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, made history during this quarantine pandemic. At first it was just a proposition to bring light to the hard times that the world was experiencing. Through trial and error, the duo has found the recipe that will make this series last longer than this pandemic.

Verzuz is a trivial yet light-hearted battle. The rules are quite simple, two headliners whether producer, singer, or songwriter, go head to head with each other to compete. Then the viewers via Instagram Live decide which person has a better catalog. Each battle consists of 20 rounds, playing a song and hearing a rebuttal.

The premier battle began on March 25 after the creators, Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, challenged each other through various Instagram post leading to their battle via Instagram Live.

“Tim and I have always been competitive with each other in different ways,” Swizz says from his home studio in New York to Variety Media. “Actually, we didn’t get along for a long time. No real reason — we just didn’t,” said Swizz Beatz.

The goal of the battle is to remind Baby Boomers and Generation X of the music they grew up on. As for Millennials, it introduces them to the pioneers who molded the music that they know of today. Ultimately, it is to make sure that music never dies for the future generation which made it important for these two pioneers to be tasked with that job.

“They take me back in time. Certain songs remind me of different eras and sometimes even different people in my life,” says millennial Amia Watson. She has watched all 20 Verzuz battles that have been broadcasted on Instagram Live. “Some of my generation doesn’t appreciate this good music but I do. My family raised me on this soulful music so I will continue to celebrate it.”

Soon after the two began instigating other household musicians, including Patti Labelle vs. Gladys Knight, Babyface vs. Teddy Riley, The-Dream vs. Sean Garrett, and so many more to battle each other on Verzuz. Many of the competitors were reluctant to go through with the battle.

“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,” said Timbaland. “We have to make a lot of phone calls to get these celebrations lined up. It’s a process.”

The success from these battles were unforeseen, so much that Timbaland and Swizz Beatz have received offers from many companies but turned them down to keep Verzuz authentic. “Tonight, represented the authentic zone of why we didn’t sell 50% of the company for millions of dollars,” Swizz said. “The authentic zone of why we turned down millions and millions of dollars to the vultures just wanting to put a name next to the name, but no. Respect is overdue.”

But the duo chose to partner with Apple Music to stream the live battles. Although it’ll remain on Instagram Live, users will be able to view upcoming Verzuz battle videos on Apple Music — either live or on-demand after the session has concluded. Also they obtained an official drink sponsorship with Cîroc.

What comes next for Verzuz? That part is still a mystery to the dedicated followers who remain optimistic for an expansion in some form beyond the online platform that will last longer than Covid-19.

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