In the beginning of the COVID-19 global pandemic when everybody was in some state of lockdown, Black creatives helped ease the anxiety of being isolated. DJ D-Nice created Club Quarantine and literally had people dancing in his digital, international nightclub for hours at a time. (That’s still going on Instagram Live, by the way.)
Then came the Verzuz battles, the brainchild of superproducers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland. It started out being about beatmakers/producers/DJs going toe to toe on Instagram Live, but quickly became about artists vs other artists as well.
Soon, we were all glued to our phones watching our beloved artists play our favorite jams while also offering up behind-the-scenes stories that non-industry people had never heard before.
These artists became our favs after years (sometimes decades) of being in our lives musically. We got to “know” them from radio rotation, interviews, and award-show appearances.
The 2020 BET Awards are drawing closer (June 28th at 8 pm EST) and we have more to look forward to from our dear musical creatives. As we eagerly anticipate the show, let’s take a look back at how some of the Verzuz participants have shown up and shown out at the various award shows on BET.
Erykah Badu didn’t have so much of a battle as it was a lovefest with Jill Scott back in May for Verzuz. Instead of trading jabs, the two women exchanged compliments, insight, and encouragement. Have you ever seen them perform? It’s no surprise that it was all love and light. Erykah performed a nearly 20-minute medley of her hits at the 2018 Soul train Awards. She was the recipient of the Legend honor that year. Erykah has also hosted the Soul Train Awards three times. You might also recall her epic 2013 performance of “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” with Kendrick Lamar at the BET Awards.
Like her fellow Verzuz participant, Ms. Jill Scott has a well of hits to pull from for any given performance. At the 2020 NAACP Image Awards (aired in February on BET), Jilly from Philly wowed the crowd with sultry renditions of “Do You Remember” and “Is It The Way.” In 2015, Jill was given the Lady of Soul Award. Whoopi Goldberg, Usher, John Singleton, and Nikki Giovanni were among the celebrities showering her with praise in a video created in her honor.
Jagged Edge has a catalog full of hits that stretches back two decades. From the somewhat apathetic engagement song “Let’s Get Married” to the club bop “Where the Party At,” to the contemplative “Gotta Be,” Jagged Edge has helped shape what romance looks like for a certain generation. It made perfect sense for them to go head to head against their soulful counterparts, 112. Jagged Edge has been down with BET for quite some time. At the very first BET Awards show in 2001, JE was there. They were nominated for Best Male Group, but were beat out by Outkast. They didn’t take home a prize, but they definitely made a statement on the red carpet with their custom, matching attire and they even surprised the audience with a performance of “Where the Party At.” Plus, that same year, at the Soul Train Awards JE snagged two wins. They won for Best R&B Single from a Group (“Let’s Get Married) and Best Group R&B Album (J.E. Heartbreak).
Just days after the brutal (filmed) death of George Floyd, Kirk Franklin and Fred Hammond “battled” it out for “The Healing,” the gospel version of Verzuz. Of course, it was not a battle, it was church choir on IG TV and it was right on time. Kirk is not a stranger to BET stages, after all, he’s the host of the gospel competition Sunday Best on the network. And of course he has brought that energy to award shows. Kirk Franklin, Jonathan McReynolds, Erica Campbell, and Kelly Price (all judges on Sunday Best) brought the church to the people at the 2019 BET Awards with the song “Love Theory.” If you’ve ever seen Kirk Franklin perform, you already know, everyone was on their feet.
(Photo by Tommaso Boddi/FilmMagic)