The series, founded by hitmakers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland found its audience on Instagram Live — and will continue to live there — and is now also available on-demand via Apple.
The Verzuz series has grown from a novel event bringing together producer peers to an online phenomenon during the pandemic. The format calls for 20 rounds with each artist playing a hit and a rebuttal. Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu and John Legend are just a few artists who have faced off in this virtual competition, recording over a half-million viewers tuned in.
Back in March, the show’s first battle was between the now-hosts, Swizz and Timbaland.
“I loaded up my beat machine and called him out too,” Swizz told Variety earlier this year. “We went live, playing our best. The audience went wild in real-time, talking to us, responding to the tracks. Two hours after Tim called me out, Verzuz pretty much started.”
On Memorial Day weekend, Verzuz hosted its first non-R&B/hip-hop matches between reggae artists Beenie Man and Bounty Killer on Saturday and R&B groups Jagged Edge and 112 on Monday.
In June, Verzuz hosted a play-off between R&B icons John Legend and Alicia Keys. Legend told Variety: “It’s just Alicia and I live, playing pianos, face-to-face. It’s called a battle of the pianos, but, so far, the best of these Verzuz experiences are where the artists have love for each other and respect for each other.”
Artists on the show have seen streaming figures grow by up to 300%. With its partnership with Apple Music, the possibilities of Verzuz are endless.
“DMX wants to battle Jay-Z, but he’s going to sound better against Eminem,” Swizz said. “People want Usher and Chris Brown, but, that’s a big brother/little brother thing: What I’d like to see is Usher going up against Justin Timberlake, and Chris Brown vs. Justin Bieber. That makes sense to me.”
Timbaland agreed: “The dynamics of sound and personality have to be there: Sometimes they’re similar, sometimes they’re in opposition. You want something that works sonically and is entertaining.”
DMX and Snoop were contemporaries who saw success throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s.