One of the few awesome things to come out of the pandemic era is Timbaland and Swizz Beatz Verzuz. Created as a friendly competition to celebrate icons in black music, the webcast series has become a full cultural phenomenon. Over the course of its two seasons, we’ve seen some of the best of the best celebrated. However, fans are currently up in arms over plans to monetize the show, with fans being asked to pay $4 for their next installment. Let’s dive into the history of Verzuz and see what happened.
Verzuz kicked off in March of 2020, right at the start of the pandemic. Swizz Beatz and Timbaland participated in the first installment, which took place on IG live as a producer battle. Eventually, they started including other people from across the hip-hop, R&B, soul, and rap worlds and from across different generations. They celebrated people both in front of the camera and behind the scenes, like songwriters and producers. Some of the past installments have included Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle, Brandy and Monica, Teddy Riley and Baby Face, Ludacris and Nelly and Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.
By August of that same year, the brand had become so popular that Apple Music and Twitter partnered with them to host it. Currently, Ashanti and Keyshia Cole have the highest viewership, with 6 million people tuning in. By March of 2021, the series had become so powerful that they began getting offers from buyers looking to purchase the property. Social media app Triller gave the most significant bid and entered a joint partnership with Timb and Swizzy. According to CNN Business, “A Triller spokesperson said the Grammy-winning producers would become shareholders in the Triller Network, the parent company for the TikTok-like social video app. Timbaland and Swizz Beatz will share their equity stake with the 43 performers who have appeared on Verzuz since it launched.”
Verzuz has continued to grow and expand as it brings new artists into the fold and celebrates more moments in music history that often go underrated. Their latest Verzuz has gotten attention for the wrong reason, unfortunately. A long-anticipated battle between ’00s neo-soul artists Anthony Hamilton and Musiq Soulchild was overshadowed after Triller and Verzuz TV announced that fans would have to begin paying to watch the series. They tried to sneak this fact into their latest social media announcement starting “to watch, sign up now for #trillerVerzPass (14-day trial included)”.
NicoleJButler I had thoughts… #VERZUZ pic.twitter.com/wCoPwhEWJt— Otto (@jwaboyeong) February 15, 2022
Fans quickly realized this meant the platform would begin charging and had a field day dragging Timbaland and Swizz Beatz through the mud. One fan wasted no time venting their frustrations, calling out the pair for corporatizing “what was supposed to be a family affair” and now charging people for it. They also argued that of all battles to start charging on, it is unfair to do so during Anthony Hamilton and Musiq Soulchild’s battle because they do not have the same audiences as some of the larger stars. “Y’all doing those fine gentlemen a disservice because we all know the viewership is going to be down because of this. Shame on y’all.”
Another person argued, “The beginning of the end for Verzuz is when they started putting Ciroc and Doritos everywhere. Trying to brand and sponsor everything. I’m not paying to watch Verzuz when I can just play one of these playlists I’ve made.” Many feel this is an even bigger slap in the face considering it is black history month.
We’re fighting inflation and #Verzuz expects us to pay for a battle that’s been free for 2 years? During Black History Month?? Please hang it up. pic.twitter.com/dShrDrNsZC— Shantae (@ShantaeB) February 15, 2022
Well, the powers that people seem to have heard everyone loud and clear, and Swizz Beatz took to social media to announce that they will not charge for this episode. “See y’all rite here tonight on insta @verzuztv 😂⚡️ Who y’all rocking with @anthonyhamiltonofficial or @musiqsoulchild ? You can also watch in HD on verzuztv.com . I was out the country don’t ask me who did it 😂 it’s fixed 🤷🏽♂️ bless up 🙏🏽 love y’all,” he wrote on a post that also featured a clip of Denzel Washington’s Training Day character laughing while driving.
So fans will now be treated to a free Valentine’s Day celebration of two of R&B’s most enduring voices. Do you think fans will tune in now that they do not have to pay? Do Hamilton and Soulchild have what it takes to shatter Ashanti and Keyshia Cole’s record viewership?