As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc globally, the live performance industry came to a standstill, with various stadiums, arenas, and other concert venues shuttering their doors. With artists unable to perform, and fans unable to be entertained by their favorite artists in an intimate setting, a few forward thinkers created virtual platforms to help ease the blow. Among them were producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, who created Verzuz, a series that pairs artists from rap and R&B, who then go hit-for-hit for the love of the culture.
Since gaining steam in late March, mere weeks after the national shutdown, some of the biggest names in music have participated in Verzuz, which started out only on Instagram but which now has a deal with Apple Music. The names that have already appeared on Verzuz include Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys, Rick Ross, John Legend, DMX, Ne-Yo, 2 Chainz, Fabolous, RZA, Jadakiss, The-Dream, DJ Premier, Babyface, Teddy Riley, Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, and a slew of others. And with former R&B rivals Monica and Brandy set to face tonight (August 31.), live from Tyler Perry Studios, Verzuz has shown no signs of losing its momentum anytime soon.
Many of the matchups have seen Swizz Beatz and Timbaland attempt to pair artists with similar career arcs and fan bases. However, last month rap artist Juicy J publicly voiced his desire to battle Nas in a Verzuz; the move caught many rap fans off guard given their stylistic differences. However, upon further review, the match-up actually made more sense than many initially thought; fans are not relegated to being listeners of one particular type of rap at one particular time. And rap with different sounds and influences should be able to coexist on its own merit. These conversations inspired Okayplayer to compile a list of other 13 other odd Verzuz matchups that actually make a lot of sense the more you think about it.
Plies vs. Wiz Khalifa
Plies and Wiz Khalifa may both be covered from head-to-toe in tattoos and built their buzz of the strength of mixtapes, but that’s where the similarities between the two begin to dwindle. Hailing from Fort Myers, Florida, Plies gained traction with hit records geared towards the ladies while catering to the streets. Wiz Khalifa, on the other hand, put Pittsburgh on the map with a slew of stoner anthems, quickly establishing himself as one of rap’s most bankable stars. That said, this pairing has the makings of being the most lively, yet unpredictable, Verzuz to date.
Potential winner: Wiz Khalifa
Meek Mill vs. Kid Cudi
Coming in the game under the tutelage of two of the most accomplished stars in rap — Rick Ross and Kanye West — Meek Mill and Kid Cudi’s expectations for greatness were thrust upon them early in their respective careers. Meek, who went from a mixtape favorite to a bonafide hitmaker and street-rap savior, channels an aggression in his music, while Kid Cudi’s more melodic sensibilities have made him hip-hop’s answer to Bob Dylan. Both artists have the solo catalog, guest spots, and seismic posse-cuts to make a Verzuz duel between the two an intriguing one.
Potential winner: Meek Mill
Big Boi vs. Raekwon
A year after the Wu-Tang Clan taught us all that cash rules on their debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Outkast proved that the south truly had something to say with their own debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzi
Potential winner: Big Boi
Juvenile vs. Yasiin Bey
Nineteen ninety-eight was a big year for hip-hop, with numerous landmark releases from a slew of legendary artists. Two standout efforts that captivated the public were Juvenile’s 400 Degreez, and Black Star, Yasiin Bey’s collaborative project with Talib Kweli, both of which helped put each MC on the radar. Since then, Juvenile and Yasiin Bey have both carved out historic careers filled with classic albums, hit records, and unforgettable moments that speak to their stature in the game. While the stylistic contrasts between the two are striking, witnessing Juvie pit his catalog of raunchy, street-wise bangers against Yasiin’s reflective rhyme spills would be a sight to see. (Also, we might see “Katrina Klap” right after “Nolia Clap,” which would be cool.)
Potential winner: Yasiin Bey
E-40 vs. Fat Joe
E-40 and Fat Joe previously collaborated on the song, “Get Breaded,” from 40 Water’s 1999 album, Charlie Hustle: The Blueprint of a Self-Made Millionaire, but the two could make an intriguing pairing for an upcoming Verzuz battle, given their differing styles and backgrounds. A Bay Area pioneer, E-40’s knack for creating distinct slang and lingo is one factor that’s made his songs timeless, while Joey Crack’s willingness to evolve with the times and still keep his Bronx-bred street cred intact has kept him afloat for nearly three decades. And if 40’s recent appearance on Fat Joe’s IG Live is any indicator, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get these legends to engage in a friendly sparring session of fan favorites.
Potential winner: E-40
Twista vs. Too Short
Cadence and pace are two traits that differentiates rappers from one another, with Twista and Too Short falling on the extremes of those spectrums. While Twista rapid-fire flow is world-renowned, Too Short’s laconic, slow drawl is also unique to himself, making them both stylistic forefathers in their own right, respectively. Short Dawg may have a bit more skin in the game, in terms of years served, but Twista’s mix of latter-day solo hits and posse cuts alongside the finest in hip-hop and R&B make him a worthy opponent to test the strength of his discography against.
Potential winner: Too Short
Busta Rhymes vs. Missy Elliott
Whether it’s hits, collaborations, music videos, or even cameos on ’90s sitcoms, Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott have been connected to and compared with one another for over two decades. Both coming to prominence during the latter half of the ’90s, with platinum albums and blockbuster visuals setting them apart from the pack, the two have yet to let up, with Busta continuing to release music on a regular basis, while Missy’s penmanship and influence can be found over countless R&B and rap records released in recent memory. As the two most visually progressive and animated rap artists of their era, seeing Busta and Missy settle who’s run was superior would be a magical spectacle for the culture.
Potential winner: Missy Elliott
Dungeon Family vs. Diggin In The Crates
The Dungeon Family is one of the more decorated collectives in rap history, with acts like Outkast, Goodie Mob, and production squad Organized Noize all having earned individual critical and commercial success. But when looking throughout rap history, few ensembles are more slept on than the Diggin’ in the Crates Crew, which includes Lord Finesse, Diamond D, Big L, O.C., Fat Joe, Buckwild, Showbiz and A.G., DJ O.Gee, and The Ghetto Dwellas. While The Dungeon Family was more on the radar of the mainstream, D.I.T.C. were underground stalwarts, dominating the ’90s with a succession of classic records that still hold weight culturally today. Providing a yin to the other’s yang, The Dungeon Family and D.I.T.C. would be a watershed moment for hip-hop and yield plenty of classic dialogue and historic gems.
Potential winner: Dungeon Family
Scarface vs. Redman
Respected as otherworldly soloists with the ability to coexist in group settings, Scarface and Redman are two veterans that have yet to step into the Verzuz arena, but would surely garner a healthy amount of buzz and anticipation. Scarface, who debuted alongside the Geto Boys before also embarking on a solo career, is known for his street testimonials and ability to channel the macabre through his rhymes. On the other hand, Redman is among the more rambunctious spitters in rap history, notorious for dropping comedic punchlines that make him disarmingly relatable.Sounds like a good battle, if we’d say so ourselves.
Potential winner: Scarface
Jeezy vs. The Game
Both unleashing monstrous debuts in 2005, Jeezy and The Game helped bring a breath of fresh air to hip-hop at a time when the game appeared to be in need of a new crop of stars. Both complied a strong catalog with each additinoal album released. Jeezy, who’s trap musings earned him griot status within the south and beyond, would be a great sparring partner for The Game, who single-handedly brought the west coast back to prominence within the mainstream.
Potential winner: Jeezy
MC Lyte vs. Trina
At a time where feministic views in hip-hop have come to the forefront of the culture, as of late, the focus has largely been on the women who have been pushing the culture forward. While names like Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, and Nicki Minaj are currently dominating that conversation, in the past, artists like MC Lyte and Trina have taken on the responsibility of empowering women, albeit via different approaches. With Lyte’s lyrical prowess and catalog of timeless records cast against Trina’s unbridled sexuality and man-eating anthems, a battle between the two queens would be fitting, particularly in this sociopolitical climate.
Potential winner: Trina
Public Enemy vs, 2 Live Crew
Public Enemy’s fixation on revolution and sociopolitical matters may be a stark contrast to 2 Live Crew’s affinity for promiscuous women and the bachelor lifestyle. However, a Verzuz match-up between both camps would be oddly appropriate. As two of the most important rap groups to emerge during the ’80s, Public Enemy and 2 Live Crew both have massive catalogs, as well as a wealth of knowledge to share during and in between rounds, making this particular celebration an insightful and nostalgic experience.
Potential winner: Public Enemy
Bun B vs. Havoc
Representing two of the greatest duos in rap history, Bun B of UGK and Havoc of Mobb Deep have accounted for some of the most pivotal records the genre has ever produced. While their respective partners in rhyme, Pimp C and Prodigy, are no longer here with us, their comrades have rallied on, continuing to wave the banner for their fan bases and adding onto their legacy. With multiple masterpieces between them, a Verzuz match-up of UGK vs. Mobb Deep — with the living members of each group curating the battle — would be a riveting one.
Potential winner: UGK
Preezy Brown is a New York City-based reporter and writer, filling the empty spaces within street and urban culture. A product of the School of Hard Knocks, Magna Cum Laude. The Crooklyn Dodger. Got Blunt?
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