When we began quarantining for the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland came to the rescue. Founding the now cultural phenomenon Verzuz, they unearthed hip-hop fans’ foundation right at the core — live-streaming head-to-head rap battles between their favorite artists.
In Verzuz, two artists or rap groups each perform 20 of their biggest hits from their discography. While there are no judges, fan discourse is usually enough to decide an understood victor.In 2021, the most viewed Verzuz battles were between Ashanti-Keyshia Cole, Bow Wow-Soulja Boy, The Lox-DipSet and others. So far, the majority of the matchups have been for artists from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Looking forward, younger hip-hop fans hope for newer participants in Verzuz in 2022.
Lately, there has been much buzz surrounding legends like Kanye West, Drake and JAY-Z potentially facing off against any worthy competitors. Whether it be Future or Kodak Black challenging JAY-Z, or Twitter offering up Kid Cudi instead as a challenger for Future in place of Hov, the world is hungry for intriguing Verzuz matchups. However, JAY-Z recently said that he would never take the Verzuz stage because he does not feel any competitor would be worth his time.
Before this, fans were pushing for a match between him and Ye, but West uttered the same sentiment during his November Drink Champs episode regarding a battle against JAY-Z. He said he would never do a Verzuz with JAY-Z because he has too much respect for him, so we can forget that dream, but he did mention that he would battle and defeat Drake if the opportunity came.
However, a month later at the “Free Larry Hoover” joint concert, Kanye and Drake would put on a quasi-Verzuz in their historic, united performance.
While Ye played his career’s biggest hits during his set at the Los Angeles show, Drake tended to only play newer songs like those from 2021’s Certified Lover Boy album and other recent hits.
With these recent developments, we decided to brainstorm some Verzuz matchups we’d like see going forward between rappers with star-power. Here are the five most intriguing battles we came up with.
Kanye West VERZUZ Drake
As mentioned before, Drake did not bring his all-time best setlist to the “Free Larry Hoover” show. So, we feel that if he were conjure up an elite group of his 20 best hits, he could at least put up a fight against Kanye. Songs like “Best I Ever Had,” “Find Your Love,” “Headlines,” “The Motto,” “Started From The Bottom” and many other hits from his earlier albums, combined with his newer bops like “God’s Plan” and “What’s Next,” which he performed at the “Free Larry Hoover” show could certainly give Ye a run for his money.
While Kanye does have what is widely considered to be one of, if not, the best discographies in all of music, Drake is a long-tenured hit machine. While victory would not be guaranteed for Drizzy, the battle of some of the best rap hits of this millennium would be quite a sight.
Eminem VERZUZ Lil Wayne
Eminem and Lil Wayne could certainly be considered as two of the most influential artists of any genre from the decade of the early 2000s. Each of them helped reshape and redefine the hip-hop community’s perception of top-tier lyricism. Eminem studied dictionaries and employed spontaneous ad-libs and characters into his ferocious bars, making for some of the most lyrically intensive and impactful songs during his prime earlier in the decade. He could also tap into a deeply emotional and hard-nosed side of songwriting, crafting iconic tracks like “Stan” and “Lose Yourself.”
As for Wayne, his lyricism is just as impressive as anyone’s in the history of the game, considering the fact that he freestyles a majority of his verses. His freestyles are so cohesive and sensible that one take seems to suffice for an official song release — and Wayne wouldn’t even be able to perform the song because he probably never learned the words. Along with these showcases, specifically on his lyrically potent, iconic mixtapes, Weezy’s most celebrated hits landed on albums from his Tha Carter series, including 2008’s Tha Carter III’s “A Milli” and “Lollipop,” as well as 2011’s “6 Foot 7 Foot” from Tha Carter IV.
Overall, both these two rap purists dominated charts and crafted hits that people could not get out of their heads. Fueled solely by their love of lyricism, an Eminem and Lil Wayne VERZUZ would be an immensely enjoyable and nostalgic showing.
Kendrick Lamar VERZUZ J. Cole
Although they have been compared to each other throughout their entire careers, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole have hardly considered each other adversaries. Since Kendrick’s iconic “and that goes for J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T, Wale…” diss on Big Sean’s 2013 “Control” track, the two have always been cordial. Most recently in 2021, Cole spoke on wanting to be as friendly and supportive as ever with his adjacent stars like Kendrick and Drake, because he respects their artistry too much to want to clash.
However, since Kung Fu Kenny and Jermaine never gave us that coveted collaborative album, we deserve a head-to-head Verzuz matchup to compensate for our heartache. Within all of their highly conceptual albums in the 2010s, K. Dot and Cole crafted cultural anthems for whichever era their projects came out in, whether it be Lamar’s “HUMBLE” or J. Cole’s “Power Trip.”
Eventually, the time will come to settle the score between the two most celebrated conscious rappers of the past decade.
Migos VERZUZ Travis Scott
Until Migos’ 2017 Culture album and eventual fleshed-out trilogy, the Atlanta trap trio was left out of mainstream conversations until hits like “Hannah Montana” and “Versace” came around. Earning an eventual Drake remix — bolstering their success past underground appreciation — the Migos became bonafide superstars following chart-topping tracks in “Bad and Boujee” and “Get Right Witcha.”
Travis Scott’s rise to stardom followed a much different trajectory. After helping produce legendary albums for Kanye West, Scott’s own career was quickly placed in the spotlight following his first project Owl Pharoah. Hits like his single “Antidote” and “90210” — which both landed on his debut studio album Rodeo — gave all hip-hop fans reason to chatter and be excited about his future in the game.
Their respective come-ups aside, Migos and Travis have collaborated multiple times and continued dropping Billboard Hot 100 tracks to this day. As pioneers of the trap music scene since the back half of the 2010s, putting their hits up against one another’s would be a battle of tastes more than it would be of skill, since they’ve each mastered the art of the banger.
Future VERZUZ Young Thug
In late 2021, Young Thug says he considers Atlanta to be the No. 1 city for hip-hop. Regardless of if this is true or not, Atlanta has become a mainstay in the rap scene for the last decade because of Thugger and Future’s impact. While they were being shunned as “mumble rappers” for the first half of the 2010s, Young Thug and Future were putting out some of the most impressive work of their entire careers in 2015’s Barter 6 and DS2 respectively.
Now, their influential seeds are seen all over the genre, as they have helped to inspire a generation of younger artists that dominate charts and the rap culture in this day and age like Playboi Carti, Lil Baby, Lil Uzi Vert, Gunna, Roddy Ricch and more.
The landscape of music today would not have arrived at this point without earlier hits like Future’s “March Madness” and “F**k Up Some Commas” or Young Thug’s “Check” and “Hercules.” These classics deserve to be showcased and appreciated again on a major stage, and a Verzuz battle, regardless of a winner, would be as righteous of an arena as any.