Iconic musicians compete in live Instagram battles

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Ryan Hardison

These two music legends, T-Pain and Lil Jon, busted out their top hits in their live battle.

by Ryan Hardison, Staff Writer

While music fans worldwide struggle to cope with canceled concerts and an abundance of free time, renowned record producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz are giving Instagram users a chance to witness dynamic, live entertainment.

Their battle series known as VERZUZ puts two legendary artists against each other as they play their greatest hits they’ve ever written, produced and/or performed using Instagram Live’s split screen feature.

The battle format is fluid, but the basic rules are that each producer or songwriter plays 20 of their greatest hits back and forth. The battle’s official scoring is based on fan reaction in the Livestream’s chat, but usually everyone watching is having too much fun to keep track, so sometimes there’s no final score.

This past Saturday night, VERZUZ held their most entertaining battle yet as autotune pioneer T-Pain faced off against legendary crunk producer Lil Jon. 

The battle started off strong with T-Pain playing Kanye West’s “Good Life” and Flo Rida’s “Low,” and Lil Jon responded by playing his crunk anthem “Get Low” followed by Usher’s number one hit “Yeah!” Although T-Pain’s catalog has more number one hits and countless high-profile features, Lil Jon’s range of produced tracks proved to be much deeper. 

Each time it seemed one of T-Pain’s hits had won a round, Lil Jon would respond with a haymaker to even up the hypothetical score. This includes playing historic tracks such as “Salt Shaker” by the Ying Yang Twins, “Goodies” by Ciara, Too Short’s “Blow the Whistle” and Petey Pablo’s classic “Freek-A-Leek.” 

The battle was evenly matched throughout, but T-Pain finished stronger by playing “Bartender,” “I’m in luv with a stripper,” “Buy U A Drank” and “All I Do is Win” in a row to secure a big finish. No official score was ever released, but the fans were the real winners for getting to witness a great battle between two musical icons. 

Each battle has been entertaining thus far, but this battle proved to be the best one yet due to the chemistry between the two performers and the setlist being a perfect mix of today’s hits and forgotten classics. These throwback gems provided an instant flashback to the mid-2000s golden age of popular music and made sure this clash would be one to never forget.

Following the battle, both artists stayed on the livestream and played some unreleased music. Lil Jon debuted a song with frequent collaborators Usher and Ludacris, and T-Pain played a new song with Chris Brown. 

VERZUZ only began a few weeks ago, but T-Pain and Lil Jon’s battle attracted an incredible 285,000 viewers and lots of high-profile celebrities including Usher, Dave Chappelle and Kehlani. There have only been six battles so far but each subsequent clash has brought bigger names, bigger audiences and more hits. 

Swizz Beatz and Timbaland have used their industry connections to organize as many new battles as possible. There are no future battles scheduled at this time, but big names such as Juicy J, The Neptunes and Kanye West have been rumored as possible matchups. 

A battle between legendary R&B producers Teddy Riley and Babyface was originally scheduled for Sunday but the night before the battle, Swizz Beatz announced on Instagram that it would be pushed back until a later, unknown date. However, he promised they would “take the quality to the next level” for this battle.

These battles are fun because they provide a distraction from the daily monotony of quarantine and are an outlet to celebrate iconic musicians while shedding light on the artistry behind the music. Though nothing can replace an in-person concert experience, VERZUZ is an excellent concert alternative.

New battles are usually announced on Instagram every few days and take place around 6:00 p.m. PST. If you want to learn more about VERZUZ, you can browse the battle playlists on Tidal, watch the battle recaps on Swizz Beatz’s Instagram or follow him and Timbaland for more information.

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