The world might be going through eerie and uncertain times but fans of Dancehall and Reggae Music have a lot to be cheerful for. Fist they go the release of the Reggae Gold 2020 compilation to carry them through the current pandemic and now two of the greatest Dancehall Reggae artists will be facing off, again.
Verzuz, the hugely popular online musical ‘battle’ created by American music producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz comes to Jamaica this weekend.
On Saturday, veteran deejays Beenie Man and Bounty Killer will join the ranks of Teddy Riley, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Nelly, Ludacris, Jill Scott, and Erykah Badu who have all been part of the ground-breaking series created to entertain a global audience stuck at home during the current novel coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking with the 18 Karat Reggae from his New York base last night, Swizz Beatz noted that this edition of Verzuz will be authentically Jamaican, paying tribute to local popular music and culture.
“This is for Jamaica and, indeed, the wider Caribbean. We want the world to see how powerful Jamaica is when it comes to music and culture. This is not a Yankee thing at all. So when the guys told me they wanted a clash with mics in the true sense of a Jamaican dancehall clash, then we said definitely go with it,” he said.
Jamaicans first got wind of a possible local episode a week ago when Swizz Beatz appeared on the live Instagram stream hosted by singer Lila Ike to launch her EP The Experience. At that time, he hinted that Jamaica would be part of the series, which has seen more than 700,000 people tuning in for the Badu, Scott showdown two weeks ago, and over one billion comments during the three-hour event.
Swizz Beatz noted that Jamaica has always been high on their list for the Verzuz series. Thanks to a long-time association with local outfit Solid Agency, headed by Sharon Burke, who is handling the details on this side, it all became a reality. He shared that it is all about timing why these two artistes were chosen.
“Verzuz is not a hip hop thing; it’s not an R&B thing, it is a creative thing. So we just want to show love to creatives all over the world. Jamaica has played such a big part in creating original music, so Timbaland and I just wanted to curate the line-up in such away that persons are surprised at who is coming next and there is no time for judgement,” expressed the A-lister producer who has work with Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kanye West, among a long list of stars.
No stranger to Jamaican music and culture, Swizz Beatz explained that growing up in New York, and having worked as a DJ in his early days, exposed him to the music and culture of the island.
“In my early days I was a DJ and played alongside systems like Renaissance as well as Waggy T, that’s when I really got into artistes like Beenie and Bounty and other Jamaican acts like Scare Dem Crew. Plus, from my earliest days growing up in The Bronx, Jamaican and Caribbean culture was everywhere, and I experienced systems like Stone Love, so I have 100 per cent love for Jamaica and the culture. So we just want to put the music on a scale that it has not been on before. To see Jamaican culture on a platform like this in a real, authentic way is really exciting,” he said.
As for whether or not another Jamaican duo could make it on to the Verzuz roster, the gate is wide open. He explained that the artistes who appear are really determined by the audience, and there is no shortage of Jamaican acts for him to choose from.
“There is so much talent there; from Beres to Buju… so many icons. It’s the people who call it. They create their own wish lists of who they want to see. We analyse it, see what works best, and then decide. So this weekend I am sure the entire Jamaica and the Caribbean will be on to catch these two great artistes.”