What do you do when the music platform that you created with your best friend has its first birthday? You have a party for it on Clubhouse, the latest social media mobile app! That’s right, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland’s brainchild, Verzuz, started a year ago this week during the on-set of the pandemic lead shut down. Starting with their epic five-hour music battle, the guys turned their tussle on to other artists for viewers to watch their favorite rapper, singer, songwriter, or producer trade tracks, stories, and love for one another on Instagram Live for the past year.
On March 22nd, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland were the hosts of a three-hour-long conversation (where over four thousand listeners were in attendance on the drop-in audio chat app), that was moderated by journalists Naima Cochrane (Billboard), Starr Rocque (Fast Company), and yours truly. In addition, many of their celeb friends (DJ D-Nice and Just Blaze), business partners, and Triller execs like co-owner Bobby Sarnevesht chimed in. Clubhouse’s new Head of Media Partnerships/Creators, Fadia Kader, who was instrumental in helping Verzuz in her former role of Music Partnerships at Instagram when Verzuz started, added context to why the gathering was happening on the CH app, “because, conversations start on Clubhouse organically and authentically.” Iconic Verzuz participants joined in the discussion, everyone from Teddy Riley to Sean Garrett, Johnta Austin, Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg, 2 Chainz, E40, all the way to Patti LaBelle speaking to upcoming April 4th gladiators, Ron Isley of The Isley Brothers, and Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire.
There was a lot of hot talk about the path to build Verzuz, Swizz explained how the face-off with Timb happened on a whim. They just grabbed some tracks and went to war, “I was on all types of ‘Best of Swizz Beatz’ playlists off Youtube and such.” Timb wanted all the smoke but explained how it was still done in celebration mode. This lead to how other artists got involved and one of the earliest of the series in songwriter Sean Garrett (who had a very memorable and wild smack-taking match with R&B star The-Dream). While working out at a park with young kids in the back, Garrett spoke in the most sincere voice and really got to the feel of why Verzuz worked from the start of the pandemic. He stated how the music and the banter calmed us at a time of deep hurt and confusion as to what was going on around us as a society. Those words were profound and meaningful.
Highlights of the overall convo:
- Snoop Dogg play arguing with comedian Affion Crockett voicing JAY-Z
- DJ Scratch giving the D’Angelo backstory (most of his original line-up of “Friends” bailed on him at the last minute/H.E.R. really surprised him)
- Johnta Austin and Lil Jon both explaining their playlist strategy against Ne-Yo and T-pain respectively.
- Sean Garrett sticking to his story of being “loopy” on pain meds during his match against The-Dream
- Timbo and Swizz exclaiming that the time between the first and second Babyface/Teddy Riley battle put a battery in their backs (“We were doubted!”)
- Teddy saying how he and Verzuz/Clubhouse crew could link and “we could do a production…” and Swizz playfully saying, “hold up, we know how your…”
- DJ D Nice showed his respect to the Verzuz fam and how much he enjoyed watching all the face-offs
- Just Blaze’s comments about liking the Verzuz platform and the V-Team taking that as his confirmation of doing a Verzuz battle
- Patti LaBelle listing the menu she’s going to cook for The Isley Brothers vs. Earth, Wind & Fire (“Fried Chicken, Collard Greens, etc.)
- Ron Isley letting the people know that he was heading to L.A. to prepare for the upcoming April 4th match up with EWF
- Verdine White making sure to mention that he and his guys have some heat to return to the Isleys
- Swizz revealing that a picture of he and JAY-Z smoking cigars, was when their newest business deals were finalized that same day.
As much as there was heavy talk about the actual Verzuz matches, there was a lot of detailed information about the innerworks of the platform’s production and deals. They talked about the importance of ownership and incorporating all 43 artists that have participated to become shareholders in Verzuz’s new distribution home, Triller. Gary Marella of Timbaland’s camp, head of Mono Music Group (Beat Club and Verzuz) dropped some extra jewels on the movement of the company and tough decisions. There was also Monique Blake and Courtney Lowery of Verzuz’s planning and publicity department adding gems, special times, and moments that stressed them out to no end. But it was all for the greater good of the brand expanding and providing entertainment to the masses.
The crew dropped a new flyer with some hints to upcoming battles after the recent Ghostface vs. Raekwon duke out. Be on the lookout for that Redman vs. Method man singles shootout!
Now sticking to their word from the Clubhouse talk, today (March 24th) the Verzuz team announced yet another battle that the people have been asking for since the brand’s early days…SWV versus Xscape. This one is also brought to us in conjunction with frequent Verzuz collaborating partner in live events company, Femme It Forward, founded by Heather Lowery. That’s right, the first R&B women’s group match is scheduled to appear on May 8th, 2021. So get your vocals in shape to sing the hits, “Weak,” “Just Kickin’ It,” “Right Here,” “Understanding,” and so many more. We have some big things to look forward to from Verzuz in this spring fling season.