Verzuz, the webcast series born out of quarantine in early 2020, has grown into must-see appointment viewing for music fans thanks to its nostalgia factor and behind-the-scenes appeal.
The series, created at the start of the coronavirus pandemic by legendary producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, began as a virtual DJ battle but has since evolved to include a range of different musical styles, including R&B, hip-hop, gospel and dancehall.
In Verzuz's second season, the internet competition has seen battles between Jeezy and Gucci Mane, R&B queens Ashanti and Keyshia Cole, and old-school soul groups Earth, Wind and Fire and The Isley Brothers facing off. Verzuz's summer season has hosted face-offs between early 2000s rappers Bow Wow and Soulja Boy, as well as '90s R&B legends Keith Sweat and Bobby Brown.
Latest battle: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony vs. Three 6 Mafia
Hip-hop groups Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Three 6 Mafia took the Verzuz battle a little too literally during their show Dec. 2 at the Hollywood Paladium.
The two groups clashed on stage after Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's Bizzy Bone called out Three 6 Mafia for "mocking" him during his performance. Bizzy Bone then proceeded to throw a water bottle at the opposing group which lead to both groups getting into a physical altercation before being broken up by security.
Following the tussle, Bizzy Bone apologized to Three 6 Mafia and the audience and the show kept going, ending in both groups singing "The Crossroads" together while honoring rappers who recently passed like Young Dolph, Tupac, Notorious B.I.G. and others.
The show didn't end without another surprise though: Terrence Howard. The actor came out on stage during Three 6 Mafia's performance of "Hard Out Here For a Pimp." The group won an Academy Award for the song in 2006.
Chaka Khan vs. Stephanie Mills
R&B queens Chaka Khan and Stephanie Mills were front and center for a Nov. 18 holiday special Verzuz battle at Los Angeles' The Theatre at Ace Hotel.
Khan and Mills walked in hand in hand to the tune of Alicia Keys' "That Girl Is On Fire," both sporting all black outfits and dark red hair.
The evening was a throwback to feel-good songs of the 70's with Mills performing "Never Knew Love Like This Before" and brought out her son Farad Mills while doing so. Khan performed "Sweet Thing" with her daughter Milini Khan.
Other battles: Big Daddy Kane vs. KRS-One, Fat Joe vs. Ja Rule at Madison Square Garden
Hip-hop hitmakers Fat Joe and Ja Rule battled it out at New York City's Madison Square Garden, refreshing their hits from the '90s and early 2000s with cameos from a myriad of artists, new and old.
Ashanti, Nelly, Remy Ma, Lil Mo, Dre of Cool & Dre, Jadakiss and Lavita Rayor joined the two onstage for renditions of their past works including "I'm Real," "Make it Rain" and "Lean Back," according to Tidal's setlist.
"This #VERZUZ was a MOOD!!" the show's official Instagram account posted after the show, thanking Fat Joe and Ja Rule "for bringing back so many memories tonight! Iconic!"
New York's (and quite possibly the world's) biggest Hip-hop legends Big Daddy Kane and KRS-One went head to head at Barclays Center on October 17 in a battle hosted by Fat Joe.
The MCs' celebration of '80s hip-hop also featured cameos from iconic artists like Roxanne Shante, Nice & Smooth. Kool DJ Red Alert and Mad Lion, as well as others. No battle is complete without some performances from break dancers though. Rock Steady Crew's lead "Crazy Legs" and other dancers busted a couple dance moves.
"Beautiful night for HIP-HOP #VERZUZ," the official Verzuz Twitter account tweeted after the event.
The Lox vs. Dipset
Hip-hop supergroups The Lox and Dipset went toe-to-toe at Madison Square Garden, and fans had the chance to see the battle in person.
Hailing from Yonkers, New York, The Lox consists of rappersSheek Louch, Styles P and Jadakiss. The rap crew, discovered by Mary J. Blige and Diddy, rose to prominence in 1997 with the hit single “It’s All About The Benjamins” and its platinum-selling debut album "Money, Power & Respect."
Billed as "the premier New York hip hop group" of the early 2000s by BET, Dipset, formally known as The Diplomats, was formed in 1997 by rappers Cam'ron and Jim Jones; they were later joined by Freekey Zekey and Juelz Santana. The group scored a hit album in 2003 with the release of "Diplomatic Immunity."
During Tuesday's New York City mashup the groups went head to head, but some on social media thought Jadakiss and The Lox rose as the true stars.
"The Lox went on a seek & destroy mission in the latest #Verzuz," @tariqnasheed wrote.
"The transition from Money Power Respect to Jada's By Your Side & then Styles' Come Thru (nail in the coffin) to Knock Yourself out was SOOO DISRESPECTFUL. This was a bloody massacre by The Lox with assistance from the DJ," @UrbanNoize2 wrote.
@Juwan_1994 wrote: "Dipset got cooked by Jadakiss alone. They were in Hell all night. #verzuz."
— Chloe Bailey’s Chair 🪑 (@Juwan_1994) August 4, 2021
Soulja Boy vs. Bow Wow, Eve vs. Trina
Verzuz's summer season has given fans legendary battles: Soulja Boy vs. Bow Wow, who went head to head on June 26, and Eve vs. Trina, who made Verzuz history on June 16 as the first women rappers to go head-to-head.
Bow Wow rose to fame as a child and hit star status with his hit "Bounce With Me" at age 13, while Soulja Boy became an internet dance sensation at 17 with "Crank That (Soulja Boy)."
Eve, who was known as Ruff Ryder's first lady in the early 2000s alongside late rap legend DMX, became a household name with her album "Scorpion," which included hip-hop hits like "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" and "Who's That Girl." Coined as "Da Baddest," Trina dropped her debut album at the turn of the new millennium, which gave way to her hit "Pull Over."
Season 2 recaps: Jeezy and Gucci Mane, Timbaland and Swizz Beatz
The second season of Verzuz kicked off in November with a battle match up that got personal between Gucci Mane and Jeezy.
Gucci Mane, 41, played his 2012 diss track "Truth" about fatally shooting Jeezy's friend Pookie Loc, prompting Jeezy, 43, to explain why the pair were doing the battle after years of tension between the two:
"When I said I wanted to do this (expletive) for the culture, that's what I wanted to do... I brought you here to show you the world care about what the (expletive) we got going on, because we are the culture," Jeezy said.
For the first time in years, the two rappers were able to settle their personal disagreement on stage and performed their 2005 collaboration "Icy" for the first time in years to end the battle.
The moment of unity was supposed to be followed by R&B songstresses Ashanti and Cole, but their show was delayed after Ashanti tested positive the night of the show for COVID-19. Before Cole and Ashanti were rescheduled, California's Bay Area legends E-40 and Too $hort took the stage.
As the season went on, the show experimented doing Verzuz battles with athletes showing off their highlight reels with commentary from other sports professionals, but it returned to the music-based formula with D'Angelo vs. Friends. The R&B singer performed alone with guest appearances from Method Man, Redman and H.E.R.
Other Season 2 battles have included many names across genres like Raekwon vs. Ghostface,SWV vs. Xscape, and a rematch of the originators of the series Swizz Beatz vs. Timbaland.
Steve Harvey hosted the match up between The Isley Brothers and Earth, Wind and Fire, with each group performing their biggest hits, including The Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout," "It's Your Thing" and "Shout," plus Earth, Wind and Fire's "Let's Groove," "Boogie Wonderland" and "September."
Rap duo Redman vs. Method Man also owned their Verzuz night by straying away from the traditional format of going head-to-head, and instead offered viewers a concert experience titled "How High."
How Timbaland, Swizz Beatz started Verzuz
The series was created by producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, who were the first stars to participate during an Instagram Live broadcast in March 2020.
During an interview with GQ published in November, the stars explained how the series was born after COVID-19 stay-at-home orders shut down clubs, leading people to look for things to entertain themselves with online – and people ate it up. GQ reports more than 20,000 people tuned in for the first swapping of stories and songs, which led the series to have its own official page and following participants.
Originally, Verzuz included artists streaming in live from separate locations with two 10-song rounds. In May, in order to ensure better video quality, the battles were filmed live from the same location.
Though no official winner is called at the end of the night, viewers usually share their own picks on social media.
Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg and more participate in early Verzuz
Some of the most notable early battles included T-Pain vs. Lil Jon, Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott and Nelly vs. Ludacris. Teddy Riley and Babyface's first attempt at their much-hyped battle was derailed by audio issues, but they didn't miss a beat during their rematch, with more than 500,000 people tuning in.
Alicia Keys and John Legend took part in a Juneteenth celebration version of the series, and even more attention-grabbing lineups followed later in quarantine, including DMX vs. Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross vs. 2 Chainz and Brandy vs. Monica.
Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle closed out the the first season with their "Auntie-chella" battle in September.
'Battle of the dogs': Snoop Dogg and DMX to face off in Verzuz
'An epic celebration': Fans go wild when Brandy, Monica reveal they'll reunite in Verzuz battle
Contributing: Cydney Henderson, Elise Brisco, Rasha Ali, Hannah Yasharoff and Edward Segarra
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Verzuz battles: Thugs-N-Harmony, Three 6 Mafia fight, more recaps