By Jhantu Randall
Verzuz Battles, held in the Mecca of Hip Hop at Madison Square Garden was created by Hip Hop masterminds and producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz in 2017 and which gained notoriety during the COVID-19 Pandemic due to their webcast series which airs on Verzuz TV and where one of the most recent battles between the two infamous Hip Hop groups, Dipset and The Lox took place on August 3, 2021.
“Tim and I have always been competitive with each other in different ways. Actually, we didn’t get a long for a long time.” Swizz Beatz tells Variety Magazine, May 22, 2020.
The Verzuz brand has created an avenue in which artists can come together and share their appreciation of each other’s musical catalog with a live-streamed audience in a time when most physical venues were shut down due to Covid-related mandates. From Brandy and Monica to Method Man and Redman – even Isley Brothers went head-to-head with Earth Wind and Fire; many took this opportunity to just let loose and let the music speak. It was on one of these evenings, however, that something felt different from the start. Now that some time has passed and the dust has settled, we can all stand back and view the last Verzuz Battle in its proper light.
August 3 set the stage for two heavy-hitting groups took to the stage to face off. In one corner, Dipset; a triad that seemed to run the early 2000s made up of Harlem born Cam’ron, Jim Jones and Juelz Santana and on the other side, a group that consistently reinvented itself from the mid-90’s, The Lox, combined by Yonkers natives Jadakiss, Styles P and Sheek Louch.
First off, this is from the perspective of a fan who loves Hip Hop for his own reasons, I immediately acknowledge I am not a native New Yorker so there is going to be some subtleties that may be amiss but the love of the art form is what drives the pen behind this editorial. Being an 80’s baby and a child of the 90’s, both these groups played a major influence on my upbringing at different times. Dipset represented the best part of who I was in late high school circa 03 whereas The Lox express the growth and understanding obtained between then and now as a mid-30’s adult. The bars speak to a universal mentality shrouded in parables as opposed to loud and up front. Both groups seemingly represent themselves well, using the grind of the blue collar as their musical platform while hitting the pavement and making moves – always a win in their audience’s ideals. With that, the identity of the competitors was set, braggadocios facing off against the silent determination of the working man.
From the opening moments, the organized chaos of Hip Hop was present. Scattered side arguments were pushing who was going to set it off first. The viewer understood the tone that was set without knowing for sure who was going to take the win. It was from these opening moments that The Lox immediately planted their flag as Jadakiss showed he was sharper than a ginsu knife; prepared to respond to anything and everything that came their way!
Dipset did not falter in the early parts of the battle, however as they may not have matched the energy completely, the united crew made sure they never let anyone ease off the pedal. It was the banter back and forth that really set this particular Verzuz apart, while not pushing the envelope too far, the aggression always remained calm and collected. To someone truly enjoying the show, they could see it was all a part of the theatrics required to make a memorable night. Dipset stayed with each other as Cam’ron led the group but when it came to the quality of the overall catalog, the Lox already had a strong, almost unattainable advantage over their opponents.
As a group that has stayed a unit and consistently put out material over two decades, they just had a deeper well in which to pull from. In the moments where Dipset looked as if they were going to take the lead, The Lox had a rebuttal often met with impeccable timing thanks to their DJ. What stood out the most that night is when Jada stopped the music and called out the other team for their lack of preparation; specifically, not fully knowing their own material as they rapped over a dubbed track. In this moment he called them out and apologized to the audience showing that Hip Hop deserved its full respect and refusing to let other vets fall back on sloppy shortcuts.
“The people won, the culture won, music won” says Swizz Beatz in an ABC News interview about the first Verzuz Battle that took place in 2018 at a Hot 97 Summer Jam annual event, where there are no actual winners chosen.
As wild as the night got at times, both crews reminded us why we loved their era and these artists to begin with. Regardless of some flubbed lines and a freestyle that missed its mark on connecting, the celebration was clear. The winner of the night was the fans and the genre itself. Here is hoping Hip Hop’s influence will continue to connect if only for the time being, because due to this, we all know true creativity is forever evolving and never truly stifled.