This story spotlights the executives of the year of Billboard's 2021 R&B/Hip-Hop Power Players list. Read the list in full here.
In late June, as the temperature warmed and COVID-19 vaccination rates rose, a sense of normalcy started to return to the world. Restaurant patios overflowed; nightclub lines wrapped around the block; festival and tour announcements flooded social media. And yet still, the pandemic’s top virtual entertainment series made headlines when, on June 26, Soulja Boy and Bow Wow went head-to-head in a Verzuz battle.
Over 3 million viewers tuned in across Instagram, Fite TV and Triller to watch the two face off in front of a live audience — the latest sign that as fans return to in-person concerts, Verzuz isn’t going anywhere. Since its inception in March 2020, the battle series created by multihyphenates Swizz Beatz and Timbaland has become a cultural staple, highlighting the impact of Black artists. It also has become a thriving business, attracting brand sponsorships, including a multimillion-dollar deal with Diageo, parent company of Cîroc. Swizz says that allows Verzuz to pay artists “at least” what they would make from doing a traditional show — and in the process help redefine how legacy acts can build wealth. In March, Verzuz was acquired by the Triller Network for an undisclosed sum, and Triller co-owner Bobby Sarnevesht confirms that come the fourth quarter, it plans to take the company public. “Verzuz is not just for the pandemic,” says Swizz. “It’s for the culture.”