Saturday night’s Verzuz battle between Ludacris and Nelly had all the hallmarks of the Instagram Live collaborations, which have drawn hundreds of thousands of viewers during COVID-19 lockdown. There were hits and deep cuts from the two veteran rappers (both of whom recently celebrated the 20 th anniversaries of their debut albums), boasts and roasts, technical difficulties (Nelly’s feed dropped out more than once) and Instagram love from celebrities (Tiffany Haddish, Gabrielle Union, Usher, Chance the Rapper, Snoop Dogg) among the over 400,000 Instagram followers who popped in and out of the three-hour session.
But the moment attracting the most attention was about a different kind of battle. During one of Nelly’s blackouts, Ludacris surprised fans with a 90-second snippet of a new song, “The Silence of the Lambs,” produced by Timbaland, who was on the phone with him. While the low-riding track musically is a solid latter-day Luda banger, the lyrics, which mention R. Kelly and Bill Cosby, two men famously incarcerated for abusing women, immediately caused an uproar on Twitter.
“I love R. Kelly, but around my daughters I’m not comfortable,” Luda raps in the first verse of the song, shortly after mentioning “Bill Huxtable,” and before saying racists are still drinking from “Roseanne’s bar” and later mentioning banished former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Lil Wayne joins in on the second verse, and Luda later raps, “Rap brought me back to restore a little bit of balance, n—a.”
Along with mentioning that he and Timbaland had “20 of these” unreleased tracks, Ludacris played another new song, this one an unnamed team-up with Chance the Rapper.
Although the reaction was minor in Instagram Live comments, Twitter soon lit up at the references.
A rep for Ludacris did not immediately respond to Variety’s request for comment; after thanking fans on Twitter for listening, Ludacris turned to promoting a new initiative called Kid Nation.