Verzuz: The new online music series where hip-hop heavyweights battle it out

The Instagram series aims to shed light on the work of producers and songwriters, such as Ne-Yo, Timbaland and Swizz Beatz

Ne-Yo and Johnta Austin have put their biggest hits up against each other in the Verzuz music series. Instagram
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Hip-hop is once again blazing a trail when it comes to providing innovative content in the age of social distancing.

Not long after US spinner D-Nice showed us how we can take the party indoors, courtesy of his online Club Quarantine set on March 18, fans can now watch musical titans battle it out on social media through Verzuz.

Created by hip-hop producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, the online series of music duels is similar to real-life hip-hop battles, in which artists from the rap and R&B worlds demonstrate to the crowd who has a more impactful catalogue.

How does it work?

Each artist shows up at the appointed time on their Instagram Live account and, after a coin toss, one begins dropping snippets of their biggest hits (20 examples of no longer than 90 seconds each). After that, their opponent replies through a similar number of anthems taken from their respective works.

The online audience, through consensus, decides who wins the battle.

Who fought it out already?

It all began on March 25, where more than 200,000 viewers streamed the battle between Timbaland and Swizz Beatz. Buoyed by the success, the series went on to host matches between producers Scott Storch and Mannie Fresh, Hit-Boy and Boi-1da, and songwriters Ne-Yo and Johnta Austin.

Next up is the most epic battle yet, with legendary R&B and pop producers Baby Face and Teddy Riley squaring off on Monday, April 6, with the first beat dropped at 2am UAE time.

Verzuz is a funky source of edutainment

As well as keeping fans entertained at home, the point of the series is to shed light on the creative work that goes behind making a hit.

"It's a celebration of our characters in music, those who make us feel a certain way," Swizz Beatz said in an interview with NME magazine. "Given what's happening in the world, it's a way to give back. It's also education, it's teaching people music, its creators and where it's a feeling."

Ne-Yo, who has penned hits for Beyonce and Rihanna as well as himself, hopes Verzuz sheds light on the importance of songwriters in the industry. "Songwriters for a long time were the guy behind the guy; you knew the songs, but that's where it stopped unless you read the credits," he told The Chicago Tribune. "A lot of the time, writers didn't get the appreciation that they deserved."

Ne-Yo went on to say that the series underscores the fact that when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, we are all in this together.

“With this, you’ve got artists you grew up listening to, and you get to see them in their living room with slippers on playing their biggest hits,” he said. “Everybody’s realising that we’re all the same. If the world is sick, we’re all sick, and we’ve got to heal.”