In the middle of a global pandemic in 2020, two legacy artists, producers or songwriters began facing off head-to-head, in riveting song battles known as Verzuz. The format pulled from the longstanding tradition of rap battles and created a new-school phenomenon.
But how did an art form ignited by rap beef evolve into a social media hit?
The latest episode of Billboard Explains focuses on the evolution of rap battles over the course of decades, and how the art of the diss track gave way to the celebratory (and mega-successful) format of Verzuz last year. “There’s always positive you can pull from the negative,” Lil Jon, who participated in a must-see Verzuz battle, tells Billboard in the clip, “and that’s what we did in 2020.”
After the video, catch up on more Billboard Explains clips and learn about nonbinary awareness in music, the Billboard Music Awards, the Free Britney movement, rise of K-pop in the U.S., why Taylor Swift is re-recording her first six albums, the boom of hit all-female collaborations, how Grammy nominees and winners are chosen, why songwriters are selling their publishing catalogs, how the Super Bowl halftime show is booked and why Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” was able to shoot to No. 1 on the Hot 100.