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|Format||Live streaming (video)|
|Created by||Timbaland and Swizz Beatz|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||21|
|Original release||March 24, 2020 – present|
Noteworthy broadcasts include battles between producers Teddy Riley and Babyface, singers Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, Brandy and Monica, and rappers Ludacris and Nelly, as well as Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane.
Beginning of Verzuz
Verzuz began as an impromptu broadcast before taking on the form of a brand, adopting a logo and official social media accounts with subsequent matches. The Verzuz brand gained its official trademark in April 2020, as registered by Timbaland. In August 2020, after a bidding war, the series began a partnership with streaming service Apple Music and social media platform Twitter, integrating Apple's audiovisual capabilities with Twitter's social-engagement aspect, a first for the former.
The idea of creating a live battle was conceived by Timbaland and Swizz Beatz in 2017, which led to a 'producer clash' battle during a Hot 97 Summer Jam concert in 2018. The live show consists of two challengers in the entertainment industry who compete with their best hit record. There are no actual winners chosen. In an ABC News interview, Swizz Beatz stated "The people won, the culture won, music won" in reference to the music sales and online streams gradually increasing due to both newfound interest and curiosity. Though no winners are selected, Billboard magazine has released scorecards and breakdowns of the battles and selected winners based on these observations.
The Verzuz webcast became a highly anticipated online streaming show during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Only two Verzuz matches so far surpassed over a million views, The Jeezy vs Gucci Mane Verzuz was the most watched webcast with over 1.8 million Instagram viewers (5.5 Million across streaming platforms), breaking Brandy vs Monica Verzuz record, which was the first live stream webcast to pass the million mark with over 1.2 Million views.
Season 2 of Verzuz began on November 19, 2020.
Instagram live streaming broadcast
In its initial inception, the Verzuz battles were performed remotely over Instagram live due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The majority of U.S. states were under strict quarantine to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. Challengers often used their own cell phone/tablet device or web camera to live-stream on Instagram live through their verified artist page. Initially, challengers added or requested each other's Instagram accounts to communicate virtually on Instagram Live. The first time this format changed was in the challenge between Bounty Killer vs Beenie Man, in which both challengers appeared together under the VerzuzTV Instagram channel instead of their own channels.
The Verzuz battle may consist of up to 20 rounds of what would be an artist's hit songs or hit features/collaborations to go head to head against each other. During the battle, the artist will play each song one after another, through audio sound systems via computer or recording studio equipment. This format has changed also with the battle of Bounty Killer & Beenie Man who fully performed live with microphones along with DJ's/Sound Equipment, which in turn also provided good acoustics and feedback without interruptions. There was a first attempt by record producer Teddy Riley to perform live against Babyface, but because of technical difficulties, it was unsuccessful.
For the majority of the music tracks selected by the artist, they often share trivial personal stories about the creation of the song and the experience surrounding it before playing or performing the track. Oftentimes, the artist on both sides would gloat or boast themselves to show their competitive spirit along with having the authority of 'bragging rights'.
For many of the live broadcasts, the celebratory competitive streaming went on for an estimated 2 hours long with the exception of continuing on their own live feed after the event was over to allow fans and followers to engage with them.
In the past, some technicalities forced a video stream to get booted off due to weak wifi connection, or a licensed copyrighted song that could only be played to a minimum of 90 seconds before being cut off stream. On occasion, most broadcasts had an allotted time of 1 hour per stream, due to Instagram's rules of live streaming, which cause the artist to restart another live session and continue where they left off. However, during the battle of Jill Scott & Erykah Badu, the live feed stayed continuous for more than 2 hours without booting out with the exception of Badu's live being cut short from wifi-technicalities.
Viewers who are observing the challenges can watch the feed from their electronic device, phone, tablet or computer with their Instagram accounts. It is simultaneously enjoyed as a watch party or listening party with other individuals, whether at home together or as a virtual population over the live stream. Viewers interact by commenting their opinions, judgement, reactions, emotions, and may use special character emojis as a form of expression. Some individuals may try to keep score but ultimately get lost in the rounds.
The streaming service was mired in technical impediments since its inception. Because of the overwhelming response of complaints from viewers, Swizz and Timbaland implemented a new rule on May 25, 2020, that the future participants are required to use equipment kit provided by the brand Roland, who created a new set up to supply the best audio as possible to prevent issues from continuing. Stating, "You cannot do VERZUZ unless you use the technology that we're sending you, because we're sending it to you for a reason."
As nationwide quarantine started to loosen restrictions of social gatherings and began to start public re-opening phases, the lineups in the 2nd part of the series broadcast the event live in-person to stream over Instagram as well as Apple Music, which began streaming the presentation live in HD on June 19, 2020. The live broadcast feed presented by Apple Music, is recorded using Television Studio equipment, teleprompters and a simple character generator editing used to display viewer comments from Twitter, also a ticker format of the stylized names of the challengers integrating with the Verzuz 'V' logo, along with providing the sponsors. As with the Instagram live presentation, it continued in the same format as the first series with improvements of the audio quality as a result of using the Roland equipment. The video feed has also improved. Microphones are offered to the participants as well.
The new updated series stayed consistent of having challengers meet face to face sharing one room often with DJs or piano accompaniment while continuing to social distance. The participants gathered with an entourage as the event was held from a selected venue. Locations of the venue included, Tyler Perry Studios, which was used for the Brandy vs Monica broadcast and the Fillmore theater in Philadelphia, used for the Gladys Knight vs Pattie LaBelle broadcast. The Bounty Killer vs Beanie Man Verzuz in the first series, was held at a club venue in Jamaica, and was the first in-person webcast stream. The colorful set designs are built to complement the style and vibe of the artists. The Apple broadcast can only be watched in the Browse section of Apple Music when the event is live, not to be confused with Apple TV browse section, although it can be watched on the Apple Music app via the Apple TV app.
The Verzuz broadcast of Brandy vs Monica broke records in numbers over Instagram with over 1.2 Million live viewers on that platform being the first webcast to reach that peak, although during the Teddy Riley vs Babyface broadcast in the first series, it was reported 3.7 Million people attempted access to view the live broadcast but was unsuccessful of joining the feed due to Instagram live viewership algorithm never reaching 1 million, forcing viewers losing the place of joining the stream upon exiting and possibly being locked out of viewing the stream. The result of this later began to open the population for more viewership on Instagram.
Following the webcast, the official 'audio-track only' recap playlist of Verzuz can also be played on TIDAL music streaming services as well as Spotify and Apple Music, which also streams the artists catalog the day of the event. Video Recaps are streamed on Verzuz official YouTube Channel along with other unofficial re-uploads.
Verzuz is sponsored by the alcoholic beverage company Ciroc, which is dubbed the official adult beverage for the celebration. Apple Music became the official sponsor for the event, in which the artists music can be searched, downloaded and streamed over their platform as done with Tidal.
Apple also began launching its first advertisement of the then, upcoming battle of Fabolous vs Jadakiss in June 2020 and proceeded to release scripted teaser promos of the contenders (Featuring: Ray J, Monica, Mekhi Phifer, Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle) leading up to the main event in the weeks following.
The Brandy vs Monica 3-part teaser promo features a young boy who crosses paths with Ray J, discovers a secret letter purposely left by Ray J., which leads him to the hidden treasure of 'The Vocal Bible'. Monica is featured as she goes on a heist in an art museum to steal her album collection that was in a secure vault. Mekhi Phifer who starred as the 'boy' Brandy and Monica was fighting over in "The Boy is Mine" music video, is featured getting an unexpected call from both of them, while leaving a market to return home to his wife, he then confessed to viewers he's a faithful married man and would not get involved in that situation. The Gladys Knight vs Patti Labelle 2-part promo featured both of the ladies preparing a large southern meal while singing one of their hit songs asking each other what they are bringing.to the battle.
Each battle are often paired up by the genre of categories. Where a Music producer will go up against another Music Producer, Songwriter against Songwriter, Vocal Production (example: Vocal Artist against Vocal Artist [Sub category: Singer vs. Singer or Rapper vs. Rapper] ). Each artist has up to 20 tracks prepared to use in the battle. The guidelines for competing are to have produced, written or sang on the track used. As for many rap artists, they can use their collaborations or 'feature' segments from other artist tracks. Producers who 'remixed' a track have been called in question, especially if they are not the originator of the song produced, as a pun joke from Babyface, but is still acceptable as it is a form of their own works. The winners are solely to the discretion of the viewers' preference, there are no direct chosen winners, however accolades surrounding an artist's accomplishments may make one person outshine the next. The real winners are the views counted by how many tuned in to watch as it shows the popularity and support given. During the battle, they are allowed to gloat, flaunt, tease as it is friendly competition. Spectators, whether celebrities or general viewing public, keep score on who they believe won each round sometimes losing count. The challenger usually feeds off the last contender's song choice or word play 'puns' to complement the flow. The curators who preside over the live feed remotely monitor the competition.
Verzuz Season 1
|#||Line Up / Match||Category||Date||Instagram Live Viewers (estimated)||Duration||Billboard Scorecard Winner
|1||Swizz Beatz vs Timbaland||Music Production & Songwriting/Vocals||March 24, 2020||22,000 apex peak||5 Hours||No Data Available|
|2||Boi-1da vs Hit-Boy||Music Production & Songwriting/Vocals||March 27, 2020||18,600 apex peak||2 Hours|
|3||The Dream vs Sean Garrett||Songwriting & Music Production||March 28, 2020||46,000 apex peak||N/A|
|4||Ne-Yo vs Johnta Austin||Songwriting & Music Production||March 29, 2020||80,300 apex peak||N/A|
|♣♠||†French Montana vs Tory Lanez ±('Quarantine Radio' Verzuz)||Vocal Production & Recording||March 31, 2020||81,500 apex peak||45 Minutes|
|5||Scott Storch vs Mannie Fresh||Music Production & Songwriting/Vocals||April 1, 2020||145,000 apex peak||N/A|
|6||Ryan Tedder vs Benny Blancco||Music Production & Songwriting/Vocals||April 2, 2020||12,000 apex peak||N/A|
|7||T-Pain vs Lil Jon||Music Production & Songwriting/Vocals||April 4, 2020||270,000 apex peak||N/A|
|8||RZA vs DJ Premier||Music Production & Songwriting/Vocals||April 11, 2020||150,000 apex peak||N/A||DJ PREMIER (14-9-2)|
|9||Teddy Riley vs Babyface||Music Production / Songwriting &
|April 18, 2020
April 20 (Rematch)
|400.000 (Day 1)
500,000 (Rematch) apex peak
3.7 Million attempted access
1 Hour 40 Minutes
|10||Erykah Badu vs Jill Scott||Vocal Production / Songwriting & Recording||May 9, 2020||700,000 apex peak||3 Hours||ERYKAH BADU(11-9-4)|
|11||Nelly vs Ludacris||Vocal Production / Songwriting & Recording||May 16, 2020||500,000 apex peak||2 Hours||LUDACRIS (12-9-4)|
|12||† Bounty Killer vs Beenie Man||Vocal Production / Songwriting & Recording||May 23, 2020||500,000 apex peak||1 Hour 50 Minutes||BEENIE MAN (13-10-3)|
|13||† 112 vs Jagged Edge||Vocal Productions / Songwriting & Recording||May 25, 2020||262,000 apex peak||1 Hour 40 Minutes||112 (13-9-3)|
† Other Media have also contributed scorecards for their selected winner:
♣♠ *A New York magazine catered to pop culture, Vulture gave a full list of winner results of all the battles from VERZUZ, including an exclusive "Quarantine Radio" verzuz battle featuring French Montana vs Tory Lanez. Winner: French Montana
±"Quarantine Radio", was an independent daily Instagram Live webcast / radio show created and hosted by Tory Lanez that went viral in March 2020, and was placed on temporary suspension in April 2020 due to Instagram's code of conduct and content violations. The show has not streamed any new live broadcasts since the ban lifted, but operates under another Instagram account.
Notable moments from the Part 1 battles include:
- American producer and singer Teddy Riley was the subject of online jokes, parody and criticism for technical difficulties during his battle with Babyface. He was heavily criticized for poor production values, weak Wi-Fi signals and being overconfident. This caused the challenge to be rescheduled for another day. Nelly also faced similar criticism due to his live feed freezing often and for inaudible audio, for which he blamed "severe weather storms".
- Rapper Ludacris faced backlash after previewing a new song during the battle with Nelly, which contained suggestive humor towards R, Kelly, Bill Cosby and Rosanne Barr. He later addressed the subject on Atlanta's V103 radio show with Big Tigger: "Sometimes when you speak on record, you speak on it like its just me and you having a conversation as friends, you're just speaking and being honest, and I saw a lot of people misconstrue or didn't understand what I was saying" to which he asked Big Tigger what he thought he meant and Tigger response to defending him was "I think what you're trying to say is: 'I love his music and what he brought to the table but I am a father of daughters and you're not going to be around my daughters' " Ludacris responded: "You're a smart man, it's just that simple".
- During the Bounty Killa vs Beenie Man battle, police interrupted to address possible noise or social distancing complaints. The situation was quickly de-escalated and the battle continued uninterrupted.
- The May 25, 2020 battle of 112 and Jagged Edge did not feature 112 members Daron Jones and Q Parker, who exited the group in 2019. Legendary R&B singer Keith Sweat made a brief on-screen appearance in 112's live stream to show support of both artists. Jagged Edge faced technical difficulties with their audio which led to another series of online jokes. 112 boasted about their Grammy and MTV Video Music Awards for "I'll Be Missing You" and repeatedly highlighted Ciroc bottles showing their respect for the founder and chief executive of their former label Bad Boy Records, Diddy. Music producers Jermaine Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox were also in attendance with Jagged Edge.
Verzuz went under new rule changes and technical maintenance to provide quality performances and returned on May 31, 2020 with a special Verzuz.
Each broadcast in this 2nd part of the series stayed consistent with better video and audio quality.
*Upcoming line-ups that have been recently revealed and discussed in a full facetime conversation with Timbaland & Swizz Beatz: Ashanti vs. Keyshia Cole and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony vs Three 6 Mafia, which is in the works. Other considered options were Monica vs Brandy (in which Monica's decision to participate is weighing in the balance, but initially accepted). The two producers are also considering Destiny's Child vs TLC, Keith Sweat vs Bobby Brown to name a few. The series would most likely explore other cultures of music, touching on Gospel, Latin, Africa & Soca sound clash, but it may only take place if artists follows the new guideline of rules and regulations. and if the artists energy are in tact and agree to participate.
|#||Line Up / Match||Category||Date||Instagram Live Viewers (estimated)||Duration||Billboard Scorecard Winner|
|Kirk Frankiln vs Fred Hammond
with opening words and prayer by Bishop T.D. Jakes
|"THE HEALING" – Special Edition
Gospel music Production / Songwriting & Vocals
|May 31, 2020||276,000 apex peak||2 Hours
|15||Alicia Keys vs John Legend||"JUNETEENTH CELEBRATION" - Special Edition
Music Production /
Songwriting & Vocals
|June 19, 2020||154,000 apex peak||2 Hours
|16||† Fabolous vs JadaKiss||Hip Hop Music Production, Songwriting/Lyrics & Vocals||June 29, 2020||387,000 apex peak||1 Hour
|17||DMX vs Snoop Dogg||Hip Hop Music Production, Songwriting/Lyrics & Vocals||July 22, 2020||525,000 apex peak||2 Hours||DMX (12-10-4)|
|18||Rick Ross vs 2 Chainz||Hip Hop Music Production, Songwriting/Lyrics & Vocals||August 6,
|215,000 apex peak||2 Hours||RICK ROSS (11-10-4)|
|19||Brandy vs Monica
(Live from Tyler Perry Studios)
|Pop/R&B Music Production,
Songwriting/Lyrics & Vocals
|August 31, 2020||1.2 Million apex peak||2 Hours
|20||Gladys Knight vs Patti LaBelle
(Live from THE FILLMORE in Philadelphia)
|"ONE NIGHT ONLY MASTER CLASS"
R&B/Soul Music Production Songwriting/Lyrics & Vocals
|September 13, 2020||600,000 apex peak||2 Hours||≠ DRAW TIE
GLADYS KNIGHT &
PATTI LABELLE (7-7-5)
♥♥ *A Special VERZUZ webcast titled "The Healing" was streamed live on May 31, 2020, in honor of lifting awareness and providing comfort from the racial climate of ongoing police brutality in the United States. The event began with opening word and prayer by Bishop T.D. Jakes. Kirk Franklin & Fred Hammond celebrated various music from their catalog. During the webcast, special appearances were made by notable stars in the gospel genre: Grammy Nominated Gospel Artist Marvin Sapp, appeared to interlude his landmark song "Never Would Have Made It" and Grammy Award winner, Tamela Mann appeared to fully sing live, "Take Me To The King". Even though this special verzuz was a celebration with no intentions to battle and was used as a platform service to uplift and heal the world, Revolt TV declared Kirk Franklin as champion scoring at 17–4.
† Other Media have also contributed scorecards for their selected winner:
≠ DRAW/TIE - According to the Billboard Magazine Scorecard, Gladys Knight & Patti LaBelle both won for their Verzuz match, respectively. Making them the first contenders judged from Billboard to score a draw in the series.
Notable moments from the Part 2 battles include:
- During the special Verzuz dubbed "The Healing", Kirk Franklin started off the celebration with some light humor addressing his height and also his facial resemblance with the rapper Plies, while playing the keyboard; he provided comic relief throughout the webcast. Fred Hammond broke down and shed tears while singing his song, "Just To Be Close to You", Kirk also shared a flirty dance with his wife during his song "Melodies From Heaven". Hammond and Franklin takes a brief moment to call in to send comfort to Ahmaud Arbery's mother, and offer support and prayers. Fred Hammond ended the celebration with a touching, spiritual, final prayer.
- In the Alicia Keys vs John Legend Verzuz, Legend was constantly teased in the comments for his tropical sweater and simple go to move: The "1-2-Step" dance during his song selections. Alicia re-enacted her famous phone call scene from "You Don't Know My Name", accompanied by Legend, who sang the background vocals and played piano. John Legend played 2 newly released singles "U Move, I Move" feat. Jhene Aiko and "Never Break".
- During the DMX vs Snoop Dogg battle, DMX revealed that he was inspired to use the term "Get at Me Dog" after meeting Snoop Dogg in New York City. Snoop also revealed that a young Bow Wow was the voice used in the "Classroom Intro" skit on Snoop Dogg's seminal debut album Doggystyle leading into the track "Gz and Hustlas" , stating Dr. Dre was afraid to use him for the album due to the album being so explicit. He also acknowledged that Pharrell encouraged him to emphasize his "sexy side" for the song "Beautiful" , though Snoop was wary of doing so before Pharrell convinced him otherwise . DMX also poked fun at his own weight gain stating he would take off his shirt if the audience live got to 1 million views but they would look like the number '10' on screen (Snoop being 1 for his slim figure and DMX being 0 based on his weight). DMX encouraged young rap artists to "write that pain", after Snoop testified that the lyrics from "Slippin" gave him goose bumps, calling it a "gangsta Holy Ghost". The Verzuz celebration ended with both rappers freestyling to various hip-hop instrumentals.
- In the Rick Ross vs 2 Chainz Verzuz, 2 Chainz employed a stunt in the battle as he used strippers and large amounts of money as props during his verse in "Bands A Make Her Dance", noting that both of the artists are from the southern United States, and how strip clubs "run" the south. Rick Ross's girlfriend Peaches gave Ross a massage during one of his songs and continued to do so for a short time afterwards. Timbaland was in attendance for this battle.
- At the start of the Brandy vs Monica Verzuz, it was said that Senator and Democratic Party Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris sent her blessings and encouragement to the contestants and also urged viewers to vote. Monica confessed she wanted to do a Verzuz after Missy Elliott persuaded her to do so because Monica wanted to have a face to face conversation with Brandy after the years of escalating rumors of a "catfight" between the two which compelled them to settle their differences. Brandy said that she did in fact once have a physical confrontation with Monica years before the battle. Brandy dedicated "Missing You" to various legends who died, while Monica dedicated "For You, I Will" to deceased celebrated basketball player Kobe Bryant's wife Vanessa. Monica played her new song "Trenches".
- The master class Verzuz featuring Patti LaBelle & Gladys Knight was met with both artists admiring each other as they acknowledged how long they have been friends in the entertainment industry. Gladys Knight admitted she was unaware what Verzuz was until her son told her that she should do it, as with Patti acknowledging that her son also persuaded her to do it and mentioned that her choice would be with Gladys. Patti Labelle talk about how difficult it was to shoot the music video to "If You Asked Me To" immediately the day after her sisters funeral. Both ladies made a public service announcement to respect each other after the song "Licence to Kill", stating the name of the song does not give people the right to harm another person. They both gave honorable mentions to many female singers who came before them and after. Patti was not aware of what "Lady Marmalade" meant and said the ladies of Labelle were confronted afterwards for its inappropriate meaning. Former First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey tuned in to the webcast. The celebration ended with a special appearance by their long time friend Dionne Warwick, as they all sang "That's What Friends Are For" & "Superwoman".
Verzuz Season 2
|#||Line Up / Match||Category||Date||Instagram Live Viewers||Duration||Billboard Scorecard|
|21||Jeezy vs Gucci Mane||Hip Hop Music Production, Songwriting/Lyrics & Vocals||November 19, 2020||1.8 Million apex peak||1 Hour 40 Minutes||JEEZY (12-9-5)|
Notable Moments from Season 2 include:
- During the Jeezy vs Gucci Mane Verzuz, Jeezy slightly addressed the past 15-year discrepancy between him and Gucci Mane after Gucci performed one of his diss songs towards him, expressing his dislike of that action and that he extended himself to do a verzuz with Gucci for the culture stating "We are the culture". He adds on by giving respect to recent rappers who lost their lives, including King Von, Pop Smoke & Nipsey Hussle. The pair ended the verzuz performing their collaborative song "Icy" for the first time in years. Gucci ended with an apology to Jeezy, in which he accepted. The adult club Magic City was the venue used to hold the event. Politician Stacey Abrams virtually opened the event by sending her salute to the contenders and encouraging people to vote in the Georgia Elections. In a Instagram Live following the battle, Swizz & Timbaland reflected on the verzuz and stressed the impact it had on rapper/street beefs and acknowledged that the two made some "Big boy decisions" by ending their 15-year dispute, hoping it will lead to less violence from upcoming and present rappers.
The series popularity quickly drew in many viewers as a way to cope while on quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, it became a vehicle for viewers to laugh, sing-a-long, dance, go back in time feeling nostalgic, watch other entertainers communicate and interact with one another through comments and replies while watching and also with each other on-screen during battle, and also it united everyone together during the crisis.
The battles are rooted to pit each artist up against each other, but is done tastefully, ending in praises and celebration. One battle noted of this, was the Erykah Badu vs.Jill Scott match-up, where both were classy and honored each other by complimenting their successes. It was a way to empower women.
Many notable people have tuned into VERZUZ TV, among those were former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, Oprah, Patti LaBelle, Ziggy Marley, Steve Harvey, Bobby Brown, Jamie Foxx to name a few. Major media outlets such as ABC News and CNN have also covered stories over the social media phenomenon.
There has been talk of Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, and comedian Kevin Hart organizing a similar series of matchups between stand-up comics, although there was evidently little to no discussion of the matter beyond one conversation and there has so far been no word on whether or not the idea will actually enter development.
VERZUZ has won the Webby Award in the category of Special Achievement – 'Break the Internet' Award in May 2020, breaking the Instagram record for live streaming with over 750K viewers. Verzuz creators Timbaland & Swizz Beatz were the Honoree recipients of the "Shine A Light Award" shared with DJ D-Nice at the 2020 BET Awards.
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