The era of neo-soul and beyond was once again celebrated at the first Verzuz of 2022, a Valentine’s Day special featuring Anthony Hamilton and Musiq Soulchild. Coming off the heels of Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott and D’Angelo and Friends, this latest R&B pairing was solid, but the surprise guests were the true winners of the evening.
Outside of Jack Thriller’s random and unnecessary commentary, fans could somewhat anticipate the route this Verzuz was going to take: A medley of the crooners’ biggest hits with a few B-side gems, ending with Musiq’s “Love” and Anthony Hamilton’s “Charlene.” However, what fans couldn’t have predicted were the guests—I personally held out hope for Mary J. Blige (“ifuleave”) and Jill Scott (“So In Love”). First, Hamilton had Jermaine Dupri spinning his classics. Dupri has been a hot topic among Verzuz viewers as they really want to see him in competition with Diddy, but that’s a separate conversation.
A handful of moments throughout the battle honored the men of R&B past and present. One standout moment was the flawless transition from Musiq’s “Halfcrazy” into Lucky Daye’s “Over.” The 2021 hit samples the 2002 classic and grown women at the Avalon Hollywood turned into screaming teens when they heard Daye’s rendition in real-time.
Personally, it was Donnell Jones easing his way onstage that took me back to the Scream Tour, because, to this day, the superior version of “U Know What’s Up” (the remix, obviously) remains in constant rotation. The crowd at the venue wasn’t hyped enough for Robert Glasper’s piano interlude. If you don’t know, ask somebody.
The merger of the old-school and the new generation was truly the shining moment last night, as Anthony Hamilton was joined by Eric Roberson, Raheem DeVaughn, and Kevin Ross for a live rendition of Roberson’s “Lessons Remix.”
Roberson loosely conceptualized the song in the early morning of his 13th wedding anniversary. He posted a snippet on Instagram. In a statement, he reflected, “God has a funny way of showing you lessons. Oftentimes, we feel good about a release, but rarely do we have the luxury of knowing ahead of time that it works.” When deciding on who would join him on the remix, Roberson wanted to go for his favorite songwriters. “I’m honored to get their perspectives on the ups and downs of love and how it all leads us to where we are supposed to be,” he shared.
Joining him would be the three aforementioned singer-songwriters creating a masterful work of soulful art. VIBE spoke with the youngest of the men, rising sensation Kevin Ross, to hear what it was like to be on stage with the seasoned vets. “It’s always an honor,” he said, smiling on our Zoom call. “This is probably the only time that I’m going to be seen or visible on Verzuz or even experienced something like it, so it was really cool, and it felt great.”
When introducing himself to new fans, he told VIBE which of his songs would be in his sampler pack. “’Looking For Love,’ of course… I would say ‘Long Song Away’ because that was my first No. 1 R&B record. And then, I’d say ‘God Is A Genius’ and ‘Don’t Go’ would be the bonus.”
Overall, aside from the usual technical issues, the Verzuz ended on a high as everyone backstage joined Musiq for a vibrant performance of his 2007 jam, “B.U.D.D.Y.,” from Luvanmusiq. In conversation with Musiq, I did request for the Fat Joe/Ja Rule remix to be added to streaming, so we’ll keep you updated if it happens.
Check out the official replay of the battle available on Verzuz TV.