Explainer – What is Verzuz?

Explainer – What is Verzuz?

What is Verzuz? You may have heard of Verzuz, but if you haven’t, you’re in the minority. This Instagram-based entertainment battle show has been making waves in the hip-hop world for almost a year now. In a time where most of us have our screentime skyrocketing, it’s easy to see how this music-focused, app-based show has taken off.

Just recently, creators Swizz Beatz and Timbaland sold Verzuz to the Triller Network, the parent company of the Tik-Tok competitor app, Triller. If you’ve heard of Verzuz, but aren’t really sure of what it is, or if you have already watched a battle or two but want to know more, here is the inside scoop on this entertainment trend.

Who are the Verzuz creators?

Verzuz was created by two titans of the hip-hop industry –Timbaland and Swizz Beatz. Timbaland was such a force in the 90s that many people have asked the question “what happened to Timbaland?” these past few years. But this hardworking musician, record producer, DJ, rapper, singer, songwriter and record executive has never really stopped being a force to reckon with in the hip-hop industry. He just moved out of the limelight into more behind-the-scenes/production work in the past decade. However, Verzuz has brought Timbaland back into the limelight these days.

His partner in the creation of Verzuz is Swizz Beatz. He is similarly a man of many talents. While one of his many claims-to-fame is being the spouse of Alicia Keys, there is a lot more to his story. Swizz Beatz is a musician, record producer, DJ, rapper, art collector and entrepreneur. Also like Timbaland, he is a Grammy Award-winner. He may be best known for his collaboration with Jay-Z from 2011 – “On to the Next One.”

Why did they create Verzuz?

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the music industry was one of those that were hardest hit. Musicians have not been able to perform live anywhere near the scale they were before the pandemic, since mass gatherings are not permitted and social distancing is necessary. Keeping fans involved and interested without live concerts has been somewhat of a challenge for many artists and has led to pivoting in the form of virtual concerts, outdoor drive-in shows and even communicating more with fans through social media.

Since Instagram was the first home for Verzuz, it’s no surprise that’s where the concept for this phenomenon was born. Last March, just as the pandemic reality and our changing society was setting in, Timbaland and Swizz Beatz posted on their accounts challenging each other to see who had the most hits. The artists posted and responded to each other with their own career highlights, culminating in an Instagram Live (a live broadcast in real-time) where they created a virtual musical showdown matching each other beat-for-beat with sounds and tracks that they had produced or collaborated on, ranging from Jay-Z to Aaliyah to Missy Elliott and more. With this first “battle,” Verzuz was created.

So, what is Verzuz?

As Swizz Beatz told “Hypebeast” last year, “Verzuz is a celebration to the creatives.” He hopes that the notion of the spectacles being “battles” is seen as an acknowledgment and recognition of the artists who are featured. Of course there is a competitive aspect, as the winner is decided by audience votes. Since its inception, more than 20 pairs have gone toe-to-toe on the show. Along the way, sponsors have been attracted to the broadcast, as it has regularly drawn in millions of viewers to various battles. Performances have ranged from virtual features with each artist in their own preferred location to in-person on-location battles between notable musicians.

Fans love the chance to see and interact with their favorites while also getting something of a “live” music experience, which is harder to come by these days. So far the pairs have included: Gladys Knight vs. Patti LaBelle, Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott, RZA vs. DJ Premier, Brandy vs. Monica, Gucci Mane vs. Jeezy, Swizz Beatz vs. Timbaland, Snoop Dogg vs. DMX, Beenie Man vs. Bounty Killer, Alicia Keys vs. John Legend, Fred Hammond vs. Kirk Franklin, T-Pain vs. Lil Jon, Ludacris vs. Nelly, 2 Chainz vs. Rick Ross, Babyface vs. Teddy Riley, Fabolous vs. Jadakiss, Ne-Yo vs. Jhonta Austin, Boi-1da vs. Hit-Boy, Mannie Fresh vs. Scott Storch, French Montana vs. Tory Lanez, Jagged Edge vs. 112, The Dream vs. Sean Garrett, Ashanti vs. Keyshia Cole and most recently, a solo concert dubbed D’Angelo & Friends.

Fortunately, if you missed the Instagram Live battles from Verzuz but you still want to catch up on these unique and exciting performances, you can watch on YouTube through Revolt TV or the Verzuz YouTube channel.

The newest pivot from the Verzuz experience is  Verzuz Sports, which kicked off at the end of January featuring an NFL Pro Bowl lineup of football players who battle each other career highlight for career highlight. Verzuz was also recently nominated for “Outstanding Variety Show (Series or Special) by the NAACP Image Awards. It’s a great example of how creative minds are bringing creative solutions to our changed world for the time-being, helping to bring fans together to celebrate the stars whose work we love.

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