Last week, The Root dropped our nominations for the second annual The Blackest Awards, or more simply, the 2021 Skippies. The categories, both fun and serious, are fairly non-controversial. The nominations though, can sometimes tread into “Yo, how are you going to include X but not Y?” One such situation this year centered on a category that our Nominating Committee felt was only right given the year that was 2020 and how we managed to get through it: Best Verzuz.
According to the Wikipedia page for Verzuz—I’m amazed that there is a whole ass Wikipedia page for Verzuz, for the record—there have been 23 completed Verzuz battles, dating back to the original producer showcase between the architects of the brand, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, on March 24, 2020.
Since that first one, Verzuz has evolved. It started out on IG Live in folks’ homes or studios (or home studios) over shoddy connections and leveled up to elaborate sets and costume changes as each Verzuz built on the successes of the one prior. Some were good for non-musical reasons (i.e., the first Teddy Riley vs. Babyface Verzuz) and some were terrible because Al Gore’s internet (or perhaps even weather) wouldn’t let the artists be great, i.e., the 112 vs. Jagged Edge, Battle for Atlanta extravaganza or the Nelly vs. Ludacris shitshow that Luda was SO SO prepared for.
Well, by the time we got to May, deals with Apple Music and Ciroc were secured, allowing for in-person extravaganzas with legitimately good, studio sound via Apple Music (you could still access the event via Instagram where you could more easily keep up with the social interactions at the cost of the sound), allowing you to listen on speakers and get a real show. The first fully in-person jam session (that also made us wonder what the COVID-19 protocols were) was a gospel-inspired joint between Kirk Franklin and Fred Hammond. From there the sound was good, the venues were fly and Verzuz was fully on its way. And with each passing event, the views and impressions skyrocketed. Black culture and our genius were on full display. So when it was time to come up with categories for this year’s Skippies, Best Verzuz (a category that might live on BET, but would probably be overlooked by most awards shows) was a no-brainer for The Root.
When our committee was deciding which Verzuz to give country to, we picked the ones that seemed to hit the hardest for various reasons like the Beenie Man vs. Bounty Killer event that was a whole-ass jam session in some venue in Jamaica where the police showed up. Snoop vs. DMX seemed like a layup as did Jeezy vs. Gucci Mane because of the history behind the event. Hell, I think more people were relieved when it was over than were hyped about it to begin with. Brandy vs. Monica. Gladys Knight vs. Patti LaBelle. Obvious choices. So when we rolled out our nominees of what we felt were obvious contenders we felt food. We felt great. And then the Bay Area called and was like, “WTF, bro??”
So we reached out to the Bay Area to schedule a short, quick interview.
[We had to edit this interview for clarity; there was a whole lot of Bay Area lingo involved. We enlisted the help of a translator. It took four calls to translators to get a working definition of several terms. E40 is a genius and innovator; his linguistics will be studied by aliens, however, that vernacular requires its own set of hieroglyphics. — Management]
The Root: What brings you here today?
The Bay Area: We were snubbed. Somebody needs to explain to me why we were snubbed.
The Root: Wait, what?? What makes you think you were snubbed???
The Bay Area: The metrics, bruh (but said with a Bay Area accent, as opposed to a southern accent). The vibe. The feeling. The set.
The Root: Tell me more.
The Bay Area: East coast bias is a thing, yadadamean. We had the scraper. We had the signs. We did it for the West Coast in a major way. We put up numbers. But just like everything else, we didn’t get our respect.
The Root: I can see you feel some type of way. By the way, “Captain Save-A-Ho” is one of my favorite songs of all time. Word to E40. So, when selecting the nominees, we attempted to choose the Verzuz that had the largest impact, especially via conversations we all viewed on social media. As well as other means. For instance, the police showed up to the Beenie Man vs. Bounty Killer show. Teddy Riley vs. Babyface had to literally have a rematch and provided more social media fodder than any other Verzuz, hands down. Gladys and Patti, I mean that’s Gladys and Patti. Lil Jon vs. T-Pain was the first one that went BIG doing real big numbers on IG and ended up being one of the more fun Verzuz in terms of storytelling and energy. Brandy vs. Monica was the Verzuz folks were waiting for even before Verzuz was a thing. Snoop vs. DMX. Come on. It was amazing. And Erykah and Jill, I mean that joint had stories for days and it was our first one to feature women and it MURDERED.
Point is, I can understand feeling snubbed, but we really did pick ones that had impact for reasons other than “we enjoyed it.” I realize that this Verzuz between E40 and Too Short was a big deal for hip-hop, especially indy hip-hop and the Bay Area. But in that case, lots of folks were snubbed.
The Bay Area: I ain’t worried about them, we talkin’ about “we.” I’m saying, next time you better put some ‘spek on our name.
The Root: If we were to do this one all over again, maybe we’d literally just lump them all in. Each Verzuz had a specific audience that was attracted to the show. I mean, the gospel joint—one I could argue was truly snubbed considering the gospel royalty in that room—was also a snub. We only had so much room. And not in the upper room. That’s a gospel joke.
The Bay Area: I’m Black, fool. I know about “In the the Upper Room.” I have a grandmother. I went to church. I hate you. I want my nomination.
The Root: No. Well, that’s all the time we have folks! Tune in next year to see which qualified individual or group gets snubbed by The Root’s nominating committee at the 2022 Skippies! Maybe it will be you or that thing you love! One can only guess! Shoutout to the Bay Area. What’s my favorite word??
Signed, sealed, delivered...
— The Root.