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Here's which musicians have been battling it out, and who came out on top.

By Marcus Jones
Updated April 21, 2020 at 05:53 PM EDT
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Swizz Beatz and Timbaland could have gone the usual route and performed a virtual solo set of their songs during quarantine. But the prolific producers/performers decided to one up everyone by starting a new trend of beat battles over Instagram Live.

The pair had done an IRL version of a song-for-song producer clash at Summer Jam in 2018. With everyone now stuck in their homes, they moved the stage version onto social media — and soon began inviting other pairs to participate, including Ne-Yo and Johntá Austin, The-Dream and Sean Garrett, and Hit-Boy and Boi-1da.

Beat Battles
Credit: Erika Goldring/Getty Images; Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Read on to see which musicians have battled it out, and who came out on top.

Timbaland vs. Swizz Beatz

What Did They Play?

While Timbaland focused on songs that changed the radio, like Aaliyah's "One in a Million" and Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack," Swizz Beatz played songs that changed the streets, like DMX's "Ruff Ryders' Anthem."

Who Won?

Timbo and Swizz Beatz are so successful on their own that they finished without running out of hits. Still, Swizz takes the L for trying to play an R. Kelly song.

Boi-1da vs Hit-Boy

What Did They Play?

Hit-Boy showed the most variety by playing "Ni**as In Paris" by Jay-Z and Kanye West, "Goldie" by A$AP Rocky, and "Drop The World" by Lil Wayne and Eminem. Meanwhile Boi-1da mostly played a steady stream of Drake, including "Controlla," "Best I Ever Had," and "God's Plan."

Who Won?

Boi-1da gets the win for surprising fans with two unreleased Drake songs, one of which features rap breakout Roddy Ricch.

The-Dream vs Sean Garrett

What Did They Play?

A successful performer in his own right, The-Dream peppered in solo hits like "Falsetto" between co-writing smashes like "Baby" by Justin Bieber and "Umbrella" by Rihanna. Garrett hit just as hard with rap hits like "Grillz" by Nelly, and '00s pop from Fergie ("London Bridge") and the Pussycat Dolls ("Buttons").

Who Won?

The battle soon developed a Beyoncé melee, with The-Dream's work on 4 and Beyoncé going up against Garrett's work on B'Day and Destiny's Child's Destiny Fulfilled. But Garrett was able to claim victory with "Yeah!" by Usher.

Ne-Yo vs Johntá Austin

What Did They Play?

Those unfamiliar with Atlanta-based songwriter Austin were quickly informed the man co-wrote multiple hits with Mariah Carey including "Shake It Off," a song that was sampled in Bryson Tiller's massive debut single "Don't" (which Austin also used in the battle). Ne-Yo used his own hits like "So Sick" and "Sexy Love," before using classics he wrote for other people like "Let Me Love You" by Mario.

Who Won?

As huge of a hit as Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable" was, Ne-Yo simply could not overcome Austin's knockout blow: "We Belong Together" by Mariah Carey.

French Mo

Mannie Fresh vs. Scott Storch

What Did They Play?

Scott Storch, who's keyboard sounds were ubiquitous in the early aughts, played some of his biggest hits like 50 Cent's "Candy Shop" and Fat Joe's "Lean Back." New Orleans legend Mannie Fresh almost exclusively played Juvenile and early Lil Wayne, bringing it back to the '99 and the 2000 with "Back That Azz Up."

Who Won?

Even with his focus on mostly regional hits, and Cash Money Records artists, Fresh came remarkably close to defeating Storch. Still, Storch put almost everything he had on the table, while Fresh didn't even play "#1 Stunna."

Ryan Tedder vs. Benny Blanco

What Did They Play?

In the first VERZUZ pop battle, Timbaland recruited his protégé Ryan Tedder (lead singer of OneRepublic) to go up against music prodigy Benny Blanco in a true battle of Hot 100 No. 1s. Only someone who's band made "Apologize" while he was also co-writing breakout hit "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis could go against Blanco's run of hits from Katy Perry's Teenage Dream era.

Who Won?

This was a clear case of knowing when to read the room. Both hitmakers agreed to mix their set up with some surprise, but while Blanco was throwing out a 3oh!3 party-starter, or honoring his late collaborator Juice Wrld, Tedder was slowing down the momentum of the battle with OneRepublic ballads and a late stage Paul McCartney track. Not even an Adele song could prevent Blanco from sealing the deal on his victory with "Diamonds" by Rihanna.

T-Pain vs. Lil Jon

What Did They Play?

T-Pain and Lil Jon went for the kill from the jump, with the singer playing his biggest Kanye West collaboration, "Good Life," and the rapper playing his smash "Get Low" featuring the Ying Yang Twins. From then on, T-Pain focused on playing many of his biggest hits and collaborations, from "Low" with Flo-Rida to "Blame It" with Jamie Foxx, while Lil Jon mixed in some surprising tracks he produced like "Blow the Whistle" by Too $hort.

Who Won?

A fun nostalgic night of back-to-back club hits went haywire when Lil Jon shared his hesitations about vaccines, and T-Pain played an R. Kelly song. Still, the King of Crunk wins the close match off the breadth of his work, even if "Turn Down for What" was an anticlimactic closer.

DJ Premier vs. RZA

What Did They Play?

RZA and DJ Premier curated playlists that reflected why they are pillars of New York rap. Of course RZA fit in mostly Wu-Tang Clan songs like "Protect Ya Neck," or Method Man's "Bring the Pain," but Preemo hi back with Nas, The Notorious B.I.G., and even D'Angelo.

Who Won?

If this battle were to stick to the normal 20 rounds, it's hard not to say Premier won with haymakers like Hov's into to In My Lifetime Vol. 1, or Biggie's "Ten Crack Commandments." But then organizers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz called for an overtime, and that's when RZA finally pulled out "C.R.E.A.M." and Kanye West's "Dark Fantasy." If there was ever a tie among these battles, it'd be this one.

Teddy Riley vs. Babyface

What Did They Play?

The long-awaited battle featured two artists who had a deep grab bag of both songs they had performed as musicians and songs they wrote and produced for other singers. Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Teddy Riley mostly kept to the former with Riley playing cuts from his Guy and Blackstreet days like "I Like" and "Before I Let You Go" respectively. Babyface pulled out "When Can I See You" and "Every Time I Close My Eyes," but peppered in some Toni Braxton and TLC as well.

Who Won?

Having broken Instagram Live records, the event itself was one big win. In terms of going song-for-song though, Babyface was the unequivocal victor. Had Riley actually played his most memorable songs like "Remember the Time" or "No Diggity," it could've been more of a battle. Babyface though, without even touching his numerous songs with Whitney Houston, shining a light on lesser known artists like Karyn White and Tevin Campbell instead, was able to trump songs by Michael Jackson and Jay-Z that Riley produced. The most devastating one-two punch the soft-spoken R&B singer served is when he surprised the New Jack Swing creator by playing one of his songs on acoustic guitar, and then later poked fun at Riley for using a remix against him.

Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott

What Did They Play?

Right off the bat, the two queens of neo-soul provided some much-needed laughs by playing each of their versions of "You Got Me," a song by The Roots that originally featured Erykah Badu, and then featured fellow Philly native Jill Scott on their live album. From there, Badu played hits like "On and On," Scott played "Cross My Mind" to fulfill late record executive Andre Harrell's request, and when Badu's connection failed for a moment, Scott came through for her by hitting play on the celebrated live version of Badu's song "Tyrone."

Who Won?

The true winner in this one was the audience. It's hard to call Badu and Scott's set a battle when they fit so seamlessly together. The whole Instagram Live was a welcome balm for their fans, providing a lot of humor and heart. The first "Verzuz" battle between women also featured a display of mutual respect that was as comforting as their music.

Ludacris vs. Nelly

What Did They Play?

Ludacris kicked things off with his hometown anthem "Welcome to Atlanta," and the hits poured in from there, with Nelly playing "Pimp Juice," "Ride Wit Me," and "Country Grammar" early on. Given how the pair both have multiple No. 1 hits, some of the biggest song-for-song showdowns included "Yeah!" against "Grillz," and "Stand Up" against "Air Force Ones."

Who Won?

When even Teddy Riley is making fun of your wifi connection in the comments, you know you're at a disadvantage, but shoddy video quality was not the only thing that took Nelly down. This battle was another case of knowing how to craft a setlist, and know what the audience wants to hear. The only song Ludacris played that made the audience cringe was a new song he has that references R Kelly, while Nelly had some off moments with "Just A Dream" and "My Place," which were hits, but were not the type of songs from him the viewers wanted to hear.

Bounty Killer vs. Beenie Man

What Did They Play?

As the first Verzuz to get both artists in the same room, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer blew the roof off the dancehall with hits like “Girls Dem Sugar” featuring Mya, and “Look” respectively. Possibly as a show of respect, neither opted not to play arguably their most popular songs (Beenie Man’s being “Who Am I” and Bounty Killer’s being “Hey Baby” with No Doubt).

Who Won?

Between Beenie Man being so charismatic he was able to shoo away a cop who came in to complain about the noise, and Bounty Killer’s delightful back-and-forth with Rihanna in the comments, the audience were the true winners. That being said, Beenie Man wins off not just the strength of his catalog, but the breadth of it.

112 vs. Jagged Edge

What Did They Play?

In one corner, representing Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def Recordings, was Jagged Edge scoring points with their gracious track “Good Luck Charm,” and the energetic “Where The Party At?” featuring Nelly. They faced off against rival male R&B group 112, the memorable signees to Diddy’s Bad Boy Records, who played turn-of-the-millennium hits like “It’s Over Now” and Allure’s “All Cried Out,” which they’re featured on.

Who Won?

Would it be a real Verzuz without a WiFi mishap? Despite their faulty internet connection, and the fact they didn’t even play a song in the final round, 112 was still able to clinch a victory with smashes like “Peaches and Cream” and the Grammy-winning No.1 hit tribute to Notorious B.I.G. “I’ll Be Missing You.” Unfortunately, even their own Biggie collaborations, and their timeless remix to “Let’s Get Married” couldn’t match up, but Jagged Edge did hold their own as part of the special Memorial Day edition of the battle series.

Kirk Franklin vs. Fred Hammond

What Did They Play?

In response to the tragedies happening nationwide, with the unjust killings of Black Americans, Verzuz prefaced its first gospel event with a prayer from Bishop T.D. Jakes. Kirk Franklin and Fred Hammond, two heavyweights of the genre, followed with some of their most iconic devotionals including Franklin’s 1997 song “Stomp” and Hammond’s 2001 single “King of Glory.”

Who Won?

Hammond tried his best with songs like “Jesus Be A Fence” (which brought that phrase into the pop culture lexicon). Still, Goliath won this time around, with Franklin racking up points with hits both new and old like the lasting “Revolution,” and Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” featuring him, Chance The Rapper, Kelly Price, and The-Dream.

Alicia Keys vs. John Legend

What Did They Play?

For a Juneteenth celebration, the two Best New Artist Grammy winners came on stage with dueling pianos, already coming in hot with Alicia Keys playing her Usher collaboration “My Boo” up against John Legend’s breakout ballad “Ordinary People.” Some fun later moments include Keys doing her own spin on “Empire State of Mind,” the anthem she made with Jay-Z, and Legend playing “American Boy,” the song he co-wrote with Estelle and others after he signed her to his record label.

Who Won?

The “Fallin’” singer had a narrow victory, edging over the EGOT winner with surprising choices like “Gangsta Lovin’” with Eve over Legend’s “So High,” and a final round knockout in “No One” over “Glory.”

Fabolous vs. Jadakiss

What Did They Play?

The New York rappers went head-to-head, each with a grab bag of songs spanning over two decades. Both came guns blazing with Jadakiss playing “Blackout,” a song his group The Lox did with DMX and Jay-Z, against “You Ain’t Got Nuthin’” a Lil Wayne song featuring Fabolous that was on the multi-platinum Tha Carter III album.

Who Won?

While Fabolous, the marginally more recognizable solo artist, had a second-half surge with memorable jams like “Can’t Deny It” with the late Nate Dogg, “Make Me Better” with Ne-Yo, and his version of Tamia’s “Into You,” Jadakiss ultimately was more impressive overall, with a vast array of songs made with everyone from the Ruff Ryders to “All About The Benjamins” with Biggie and Lil’ Kim. Although it was played in the seventh round, the surprise pick “Victory,” a song he revealed he ghostwrote for Diddy, helped him secure just that.

DMX vs. Snoop Dogg

What Did They Play?

The canine-inspired compatriots made sure to re-introduce themselves with DMX playing “What’s My Name” up against the similarly titled “Who Am I? (What’s My Name)” by Snoop Dogg. Throughout, Snoop would get up and cripwalk to “B— Ain’t Sh--” with Dr. Dre (a song DMX knew all the words to), while the Ruff Ryders member pulled out raucous favorites like “X Gon’ Give It To Ya” and “Money, Power Respect” with The Lox and Lil’ Kim.

Who Won?

By mostly sticking to his rap-focused singles and Death Row Records features, like “Gin and Juice” and “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” with Tupac, Snoop let some of his most commercial hits like “Sensual Seduction” and “Young, Wild, & Free” fall to the wayside. That left room for DMX to clinch the title with obvious winners like “Party Up (Up In Here)” and legendary LL Cool J posse cut “4,3,2,1” featuring him alongside Method Man, Redman, and Canibus.

Rick Ross vs. 2 Chainz

What Did They Play?

It’s a tough match-up for the artist formerly known as Tity Boi going against Rick Ross “The Boss,” but 2 Chainz fought hard immediately, countering “B.M.F.” with his Drake collaboration “No Lie,” and Ross’s breakout hit “Hustlin’” with his signature song “I’m Different” in the first two rounds. As 2 Chainz entertained the audience by counting the plaques he’s gotten for hits like “Mercy” with the fellas from G.O.O.D. Music, Ross sat back stoic and shirtless, queueing up his singles “The Boss” featuring T-Pain, and “Aston Martin Music” featuring Drake and Chrisette Michele.

Who Won?

It can’t be said enough how well 2 Chainz held his own as the underdog, but Ross just pulled no punches, using his winning “Devil in a New Dress” verse midway, and then twisting the knife with the streak that was “Stay Schemin’,” “Pop That,” and “I’m on One.”

Brandy vs. Monica

What Did They Play?

The answer to this question is obvious for anyone with any familiarity with the pair (and that should be most people alive in 1998, when Brandy and Monica’s duet “The Boy Is Mine” spent 13 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100, making it ubiquitous). Of course, before that closing collaboration, Brandy pulled out harmonic tracks like “Brokenhearted” and “Full Moon” while Monica had a healthy mix of mid-tempo tunes like “So Gone” and singles like “Sideline Ho” that bring out her fan-coined alter ego Goonica.

Who Won?

Verzuz can sometimes get a little loose with the term “hit” when referring to some of the playlists choices, but these R&B icons have both had multiple top 10 hits. Monica won some rounds, like when she played her song “Slow Jam” with Usher (Brandy only had a forgettable song with Chris Brown to play in response), but ultimately lost to the “Sitting Up In My Room” singer by not playing her signature ballad “Angel of Mine.”

Gladys Knight vs. Patti LaBelle

What Did They Play?

Live from the Fillmore in Philadelphia, the two living legends pulled out all the stops, with bedazzled duds, a dazzling display, and most of all, live vocals from Patti LaBelle, singing her unmatched rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” and Gladys Knight singing “Neither One of Us.” Knight kept it steady, going one by one from “Midnight Train to Georgia” to “Love Overboard” to “That’s What Friends are For” (with an in-person cameo from Dionne Warwick. Meanwhile, LaBelle fell into medley rounds by the end of it, combining “New Attitude” and “On My Own” (her song with Michael McDonald) towards the end of it.

Who Won?

LaBelle has a slight edge, putting it all on the table, and mixing it up so much that “ABCs” landed next to “Lady Marmalade.” Knight is definitely right there with her though, winning the first round with “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.” If anything their enduring friendship won the night.

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