Verzuz livestream battles are the best thing going — AKA they’re the only thing going. Timbaland and Swizz Beats parlayed the hysteria around their March beat battle into a Verzuz series where a who’s who of hip-hop and R&B are going track for track in front of hundreds of thousands of people on Instagram Live.
Matchups like RZA vs. DJ Premier, Scott Storch vs. Mannie Fresh, and T-Pain vs. Lil Jon have piqued quarantined fans’ interests and stirred debate about future matchups. What are the rap matchups that we’d most like to see as a hip-hop community?
A couple qualifiers: this is (for the most part) a practical list. Kanye is still on his secular music boycott and likely won’t be participating. Legends like Jay-Z, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Nas, LL Cool J and others are too reclusive to get down and dirty. There are also a couple of tricky artists: for instance, Snoop Dogg has too much of a catalog for anyone other than artists who won’t participate, while Rick Ross’ Justice League work would shellshock any of his trap peers.
So here’s the unscientific, variably realistic list. Let us know what other battles you’d like to see below:
Havoc vs Alchemist
The late Prodigy, a brother to both men, suggested this battle several years ago. Now that beat battles are more in-demand than ever, it seems like the two should fulfill his wish and go at it with their lengthy catalog of head-nodding bangers and enticing soul samples. The two are known for sinister production ripe for spitters but they have their fair share of mainstream bangers like the Alchemist-produced “We Gon Make It” and Mobb Deep’s “The Learning (Burn).” It would also be fun to see them go off on a run of Prodigy vs. Prodigy to celebrate their fallen comrade.
Who Wins: Havoc. It’s gonna be hard for ALC to compete with the weight of The Infamous tracks.
Jeezy vs 2 Chainz
2 Chainz has expressed interest in wanting to do a beat battle. He challenged Meek Mill last week, but Meek declined. 2 Chainz also declined a battle with Fabolous because F-A-B-O has too many “girl records.” But there’s another charismatic hitmaker artist who’s just as trap-focused as 2 Chainz : Jeezy. The Snowman hasn’t been releasing his best music of late, but this quarantine period is all about celebrating history. And when it comes to trap music, Jeezy’s catalog is integral to the canon. A lot of people need to learn or be reminded of an era when his catalog was so infectious that Kanye West admitted in 2008 that “every time I write a chorus or any type of hook, I say like, ‘What would [Young] Jeezy do?’”
Who Wins: 2 Chainz’ feature work helps him take the edge.
T.I. vs 50 Cent
Aside from being two of the most captivating personalities in the game, 50 Cent and T.I. are both the embodiment of the 2000’s archetypal hitmaker: they could get play in the club, be as grimy as they wanted, but also had swooning women fanbases who they appeased with catchy singles. These days, they’re so entrenched as hip-hop multi-taskers (for whom rap isn’t the primary vehicle) that it would be good to see both of them celebrated for how dominant they were in the ‘00s — and not old beef. Despite representing different regions, their catalog is so similarly balanced thematically and stylistically that neither one would be able to swerve on the other in the way that Timbaland and Scott Storch did their opponents. And if nothing else, this battle would also be an A1 sh*t-talking contest.
Who Wins: T.I. has a little bit more in the tank hit-wise.
Metro Boomin vs Zaytoven
This is the matchup of two out-of-towners who helped shape Atlanta’s sound. They’re both known for their synergy with a pair of iconic acts (Future and Gucci Mane respectively), but have plenty of bangers with other Atlanta based acts, including each other’s go-to artist. It would be fun to intriguing to see “mixtape Gucci” tracks go up against four-peat era Future, as well as Migos hits like the Zaytoven-produced “Versace” vs. Metro Boomin’s “Bad And Boujee.” They’ve both worked with so many of the same artists, so this could be a song for song fight to see who got the most out of any given artist.
Who Wins: Metro for most people, though it will likely be a streets vs. charts preference battle.
Young Thug and Drip Harder vs Migos
This is probably way too ambitious to ever happen, but it would be a fun celebration of “the New Atlanta.” It wouldn’t be fair for any solo act to go against Migos, as their solo work and features (Quavo and Offset especially) would make that kind of battle feel like a handicap match. But seeing Thug get some help from his young labelmate Gunna and Lil Baby (who he put on) makes sense. It would also help certain artists involved further confirm that whatever fight they say didn’t happen didn’t actually happen, and even if it did it doesn’t stop the movement. We could call this one the Gucci Mane battle royale.
Who Wins: Migos outlast the tag team round-for-round.
DJ Khaled vs Mike Will Made-It
This would be a fun matchup of two of the 2010s’ biggest hitmakers who both approached their artistry differently. DJ Khaled is the world’s most relentless pitchman, while Mike Will is damn near anonymous beyond his producer tag despite producing hits for the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Future, Gucci Mane, and more. Both men have kept the functions plenty fed with tracks like Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts,” “All I Do Is Win,” and “We Takin Over” and Mike Will’s “Same Damn Time,” “No Flex Zone,” and of course “Black Beatles.”
Who Wins: Mike Will wins out round-for-round.
Missy Elliott vs. Nicki Minaj
It’s corny to pit the two women on this list against each other, but no cishet male artist would take on either artist because of fragility. The only people who are beating out Nicki or Missy are fellow certified legends, many of whom won’t be participating in beat battles. Nicki could frankly use the good press, while Missy could give the younger generation another reminder of her lasting greatness. In many ways, Nicki Minaj followed after Missy as a charismatic, genre-bending, aesthetically imaginative artist. Why not go hit-for-hit and see who did it better?
Who Wins: Missy and Timbaland are a cheat code.
Pharell vs Drake
This matchup could be a reach, but I feel like T-Pain vs. Lil Jon opened the door for this kind of matchup. T-Pain played several tracks against producer Lil Jon where he didn’t craft the beat but did the hook. It wasn’t a beat for beat battle between two producers. It was two artists hurling anything they’ve had their fingerprints on at each other. As a producer, Pharell would have the enviable advantage of Snoop Dogg, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z records at his disposal, but Drake has 19 No. 1 singles on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and 15 No. 1 singles on the US Hot Rap Songs. With over 200 Billboard charting songs, he’d do just fine finding 20 or so smashes for a battle that shouldn’t be taken deathly serious anyway.
The ideal match for both men would probably be Kanye West, but he’s currently doing gospel music and building futuristic contraptions in the Great Plains. It only makes sense for them to face off against each other.
Both men are among the most iconic acts of the past vicennium (thanks Kanye). They’re often referenced as solitary creators but have had varying amounts of help crafting their catalog. Both artists are as versatile as it gets, with Pharell’s iconic genre-bending with N.E.R.D. and Drake’s forays into so-called Afrobeats. The amount of left-field turns this battle could take would be fascinating. Both artists have way too many vibes in the chamber for other prospective (practical) competitors, so why not battle each other?
Who Wins: Realistically, we all win. But Pharell being able to use Jay-Z records to go against Drake’s rap records could be a difference-maker.
Diddy vs Dre
This is the one. Diddy has rightfully clarified that his catalog is “not regular,” but neither is Dr. Dre’s. The Compton icon has been the lynchpin behind so many movements and cultural moments that he could wash most producers with his 88-93 or 98-03 output alone. But opening the totality of his 30+ year catalog is the best antidote for Diddy’s massive resume. While Diddy isn’t a beatmaker, he’s had his fingerprints on so many songs, remixes, and guest appearances that this battle could easily go 30 for 30 with bangers to spare. Not to mention that few people would be as engaging on a live stream as Diddy.
Who Wins: Diddy’s R&B work turns the tide in this one.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.