Necessity breeds innovation and there’s no better example than the inception of Verzuz during the pandemic last year.
Created by legendary producers Timbaland and Swizz Beats, the head-to-head music catalog battle series was a godsend given social distancing and stay at home measures canceled live shows across the globe.
The platform has since been instrumental in both advancing and preserving the culture. Through these matchups, legends are given flowers, memories created, and fans enjoy live performances that they otherwise would not have been able to.
With the BET Hip Hop Awards 2021 underway, here’s a look at past performers and how they have fared on the Verzuz stage.
Beenie Man and Bounty Killer took on Verzuz before their appearance on the BET Hip Hop Awards stage.
Titled the ‘Reggae Cypher,’ the legendary artists’ freestyles took place virtually from Kingston, Jamaica and featured Skip Marley, Original Koffee, and Shenseea.
During their performance, Beenie Man took aim at a Billboard magazine article called ‘Verzuz Effect,’ which neglected to include the Dancehall heavyweights on the digital cover story:
"Mi did kinda nervous, Wha day mi duh di Verzus /Mi a wonder if American neva saw dem curse us /Caw di Billboard Magazine come out wha day, dem neva reveal us"
Let’s just say, whether getting steam off or representing their culture, the two know how to put a show on.
While you might not have expected this Brandy to be Hip Hop Award performing alumni, the R&B legend stepped outside of her box as part of last year’s ‘Ladies First’ cypher at the BET Hip Hop Awards 2021.
Alongside H.E.R, Erykah Badu and others, the former television star spit a freestyle to her 1994 smash, “I Wanna Be Down” that’s a must-see.
Monica hasn’t performed on the BET Hip Hop Awards stage, but her Verzuz performance with Brandy broke the viewing record at the time, pulling in more than six million views. To this date, the match-up remains the top five most viewed and regarded as one of the best that’s aired.
T-Pain and Lil John are some of the most entertaining rappers hip-hop has come across.
The Nappy Boy Entertainment frontman showed us when he hosted the BET Hip Hop Awards in 2007. Not only did the “Sprung” artist carry the show, but he opened performing “I’m So Hood” with DJ Khaled, Rick Ross and crew.
Similarly, you can look to as recent as 2019 to see Lil John rip the BET Hip Hop stage. The “Get Low” producer joined Saweetie and Petey Pablo onstage to perform "Freek-A-Leek,” "Turn Down for What," “Get Low," and "My Type" medley.
On Verzuz, T-Pain and Lil John brought the same energy, showering each other with affection and respect whilst getting drunk in one of the most fun and heartwarming Verzuz you will find.
Gucci Mane has more BET Hip Hop performances than most could dream of. The Atlanta rapper brought down the stage in 2016 with a string of trap classics; performed “Gucci Gang” with Lil Pump in 2018; and who can forget he and Mulatto showcasing "B**** from Da Souf" with just last year.
Their Verzuz ended up being one of the ages, bringing in a whopping 1.8 million viewers during the November event.
Whether you want to point at Eve’s performance with DMX during the ‘Ruff Ryders’ Cypher at the BET Hip Hop Awards 2012 or Trina joining Trick Daddy and Rick Ross to celebrate Uncle Luke in 2017, these two emcees know how to put on a show.
Verzuz was much of the same way, with classics like Trina’s “Da Baddest B—h” and Eve’s “Tambourine” thumping. More so than the music, however, it was great seeing the two women on stage together again after coming up at the same time in the late '90s.
Photo by JMEnternational/Redferns