This global pandemic is unlike anything we've experienced before, however, how we're choosing to spend our time indoors is a phenomenon in and of itself. Instagram Live battles between the biggest names in music have emerged as an unlikely pastime for many of us. Dubbed "Verzuz," the battle series created by legendary producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz has become a highlight of quarantine.
Ever since the two superproducers kicked off the series back in March, few things have kept us from going totally stir crazy as much as the Verzuz battles. What started off as a 20-song showdown between evenly matched producers, has come to encompass the stars and GOATs of R&B and hip-hop, with millions glued to their IG feeds on countless weekends to watch the magic – and drama – unfold.
So far Verzuz has seen everyone from Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds taking on Teddy Riley, Erykah Badu in a lovefest with fellow soulstress Jill Scott, to Ludacris battling Nelly. And while we wait for another internet-breaking head-to-head to unfold, we decided to take it back and rank every battle as yet.
Here are the top Verzuz battles, ranked from worst to best.
Mannie Fresh vs. Scott Storch
Mannie Fresh is oft credited as the architect behind southern rap's Cash Money sound, and Scott Storch is the producer behind many of the 2000s biggest urban hits. The Mannie-Scott showdown was a nostalgia-packed extravaganza, with Mannie pulling out hits like Juvenile's "Back That Azz Up" and T.I.'s "Big Thangs Poppin." However, fans agreed that Storch took home the W, courtesy of his mega-hits such as Fat Joe's "Lean Back" and Eve's "Let Me Blow Ya Mind."
While the battle was stellar in terms of hip-hop bangers, it was a little less hi-octane than some of the showdowns to come. Watch it in full below.
Ne-Yo vs. Johntá Austin
The third Verzuz battle saw successful R&B singer-songwriters Ne-Yo and Johntá Austin compared discographies. Both artists are masters of soulful love ballads and their faceoff covered a who’s who of R&B’s last 20 years. Ne-Yo put up a good fight with "Miss Independent," Bey’s “Irreplaceable,” and Rihanna’s “Take a Bow.” However, Johntá narrowly out-shadowed him with Bow Wow and Ciara’s “Like Mine,” Trey Songz’s “Can’t Help But Wait,” and Mariah’s “We Belong Together” and “Shake It Off.”
This battle is a definite highlight for OG R&B fans, but at the end of the day, the battle complete with gentlemanly banter was too drama-free. Check it out in full below.
Nelly vs. Ludacris
Nelly and Ludacris delivered a battle that sounded like a club night straight out of 2005. The rappers dug deep into their discographies to play their classic tunes, including Nelly's "Hot in Herre" and Luda's "Move B-tch." However, Nelly really brought the dilemma with his iffy internet connection, which in and of itself, made for some hilarious memes and is enough reason to give the W to Luda.
Boi-1da vs. Hit-Boy
The second Verzuz event paired two hitmakers that have shaped the musical landscape in the last 10 years. It seemed like an even match up. Hit-Boy brought the heat with big radio records like Bey and Nicki’s “Feeling Myself” and Kendrick’s “Backseat Freestyle,” however, Boi-1da one-upped him with an endless stash of Drake records.
In the end it really was a win for the fans, with the producers previewing unreleased music by Nipsey Hussle, Nas, Drake, and Roddy Ricch.
Timbaland vs. Swizz Beatz
The Godfathers of Verzuz, Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, kicked off the series with a bang, laying the blueprint for what a competitive beat battle should look like. Swizz brought Ruff Ryder and Hov classics from the vault, while Timbo dropped gems from the late Aaliyah and Missy Elliott. With so many classic tracks we have to call it a tie.
The-Dream vs. Sean Garrett
The-Dream and Sean Garrett's battle is the reason Verzuz now has ground rules. Dream – the hitmaker behind hits like Beyoncés “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body” – and Sean – who helped craft singles like Usher’s “Yeah!,” Ciara’s “Goodies,” and Yoncé banger “Ring the Alarm”– showed us what competitive spirit really looks like. From trash talking, to showing up late, and letting records rock too long, this showdown packed lots of drama.
Lil Jon vs. T-Pain
Back to back bangers and lively banter made Lil Jon and T-Pain's Verzuz battle one for the books. The GOATs of 2000s radio hits brought the party with Jon bringing rowdy Atlanta crunk music, while T-Pain delivered hits “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” and “Can’t Believe It,” which had the autotune crooner dancing and singing along – until Swizz said, “What you think we at, Essence Fest?”
With such a well-matched competition, it's hard to call a winner with this one. Just watch a recap below and decide for yourself.
French Montana vs. Tory Lanez
French Montana and Tory Lanez going up against each other with their respective catalog of hits was a true treat for fans. Tory flexed his R&B and rap cadences with tracks like “Ferris Wheel” and “K Lo K." However, it was an uphill battle against French's hits, including “Stay Schemin’” and “Pop That." Tory took the L like a champ, delivering Quarantine Radio-esque jokes and energy while French nonchalantly smoked a hookah.
Babyface vs. Teddy Riley (Parts 1 & 2)
When it comes to jokes, Babyface and Teddy Riley's battle is hands down the best so far. The disastrous event is arguably more legendary now for the many memes it inspired. As the only Verzuz installment thus far where the technical difficulties necessitated an outright postponement, Babyface and Teddy Riley stumbled through technical difficulties like true boomers.
Scroll down for the full video and click here for some of the hilarious memes.
Beenie Man vs. Bounty Killer
Beenie Man and Bounty Killer brought the summer vibes in the battle of the dancehall kings. Streamed live from Kingston, the “Soundclash Edition” of Verzuz was easily the most entertaining yet. Bounty Killer brought big tunes like “Living Dangerously” and “Deadly Zone” with Mobb Deep. Beenie Man ended up coming out with the win, delivering bangers like “Romie," “Girls Them Sugar,” and “Fresh From Yard" featuring Lil Kim. Witness the legends turn up below.
RZA vs. DJ Premier
When Babyface first delayed his battle with Teddy Riley to recover from coronavirus, RZA and DJ premier, two of hip-hop's greatest architects impressed a packed IG Live crowd of fellow artists and fans with their legendary tracks and untold stories. The Wu-Tang mastermind and Gangstarr alumni gave us a dose of ’90s classics – so many hits, that it merited a lengthy bonus round. However, with hits in tow from the likes of by Method Man, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Raekwon, and an absolutely meme-worthy sleeveless vest, we have to give the W to RZA. Witness the iconic clash below.
Jill Scott vs. Erykah Badu
With so many iconic battles unfolding over the past months, you'd think it would be hard to pick a winner. Well, Miss Badu and Miss Scott made it very easy. Going down the night before Mother's Day, this showdown saw the queens of neo-soul give us a pure celebration of music, culture and blackness. Exuding positive energy and soul, the friendly battle was soundtracked by a catalog of hits like Badu's “On & On,” “Didn’t Cha Know” and “Love of My Life,” and Jill Scott's "Cross My Mind," “Rolling Hills,” and "Slowly, Surely.”
Erykah Badu definitely took the crown with this one, but at the end of the day this wasn't a battle, it was mutual appreciation.