For The Undefeated, David Dennis Jr. wrote, “[T]he Verzuz events emerged as a communal salve for Black folks reeling from a 2020 of mass death, social distancing and an endless barrage of police brutality videos.”
When the world was under strict stay-at-home orders, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland came up with a unique concept: bring together two legends and have them battle with their catalogues. Although it started as an Instagram live series, it eventually morphed into a live show streamed exclusively on social media.
And it was only up from there.
During the highly anticipated Bow Wow and Soulja Boy episode, the rappers played the soundtrack of Black Millennial adolescence. One person tweeted, “This was the best #Verzuz battle. Middle School Me is so happy.” Really, Bow Wow and Soulja Boy’s Verzuz battle was a nostalgic moment for many. Yet, not everyone was celebrating.
Only two weeks would pass before a similar incident happened. When SWV and Xscape faced off, many took issue with Tiny Harris’s appearance on the show, given copious allegations of abuse at the hands of her and her husband. A month and a half later, Soulja Boy and Bow Wow went head-to-head, despite both being accused of egregious forms of abuse.
Despite these allegations, Bow Wow was invited to Verzuz, alongside another alleged abuser. According to USA Today, “Soulja Boy is being sued by an anonymous longtime lover who alleges he beat her repeatedly over years, including one attack so severe she miscarried their baby.” This is in addition to allegations of sexual assault and kidnapping.
This was recently seen when Swizz Beatz invited Justin Timberlake to do a Verzuz battle. Timberlake is known for his Superbowl performance with Janet Jackson, where he exposed her breast to millions of viewers in the audience and at home. Afterward, Janet was blackballed from the industry while Timberlake’s career thrived.
“Justin was not blacklisted or derailed because he had gone crying to Moonves after the incident happened for sympathy. At that moment, Justin was just worried about himself and his career. He did not care what happened to Janet after he saved his ass,” wrote Rebecca Max, an avid Janet Jackson fan.
In the latter half of her response, Max is referring to an incident that took place recently. Swizz Beatz asked who should be featured on a Verzuz episode, and a commenter said, “Missy Elliot and Janet Jackson.” Swizz disagreed, suggesting that Janet did not have the catalogue to battle in a Verzuz.
To Max, “#VERZUZ has become all about money and politics.” Really, these industry politics play out in Hip Hop culture as a whole. What started as a safeguard against racism has morphed into a space that marginalizes and abuses the same Black women who created it. Yet, because people see Hip Hop in a familial sense, it is hard to call out the problems in it, Shanita Hubbard posits.
For Huff Post, she wrote, “Having a public conversation around real-life crimes like sexual harassment and assault that occur within the hip-hop industry ― within our family ― would feel like pulling the curtain back and exposing your family issues to the world.”
So, we keep quiet and praise alleged abusers.
One example of a Black man who is supposedly leading “the culture” but really causing harm is Timbaland.
Although he is the creator of Verzuz, which for many was a light during dark times, he admitted that he was in love with the late singer Aaliyah when she was a minor, according to Complex.
Despite the mainstream ‘me too.’ movement, time has never been up when it comes to abusers in Hip Hop. When hit shows like Verzuz normalize abuse, it seems like it never will be.