When pioneering producers like DJ Premier and RZA, Ne-Yo and Johnta Austin, and Lil Jon and T-Pain went head-to-head in recent days by playing some of their most impactful songs in battles on social media, in more normal times, it may have answered the hypothetical question many music fans have asked throughout the years: Who is the better beat-maker?
But for Swizz Beatz and Timbaland — Grammy-winning legends in their own rights — hosting a friendly competition while fans and artists are homebound due to the coronavirus was about giving back to the people.
“We don’t really like to use the word ‘battle’ — although it’s natural to say battle when two people are playing songs with each other. But this is more of a celebration, an educational celebration,” Swizz Beatz said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Me and Tim’s mission is to bring happiness, to help everybody get past this hard moment because we’re all being affected.”
The digital battles have been extremely popular and are part of Swizz Beatz and Timbaland’s “Verzuz” series. Artists typically stream from their homes on Instagram Live, and the acts — a producer, recording artist or songwriter — must have a catalog of at least 20 songs that are considered hits to participate.
“Me and Swizz sit down and we really kind of curate the matches well. We try to do the unpredictable, not what people predict. And that comes with a lot of work on me and Swizz’s part,” said Timbaland. “We have to make a lot of phone calls to get these celebrations lined up. It’s a process.”