“Ain’t nobody that can stand on that stage with me. I ain’t gonna lie, no disrespect. Everyone’s amazing, they’ve done what they’ve done. No one can stand on that stage with me. There’s not a shot,” the rapper bragged during a surprise appearance on Alicia Keys’ Twitter Spaces discussion Tuesday (Dec. 21) with Rob Markman of Genius.
So that got us thinking: Who actually could go song for song against Hov (real name: Shawn Carter) on the Verzuz stage? Below, Billboard rounded up five worthy competitors who could stand on the Verzuz stage with him.
The first and most obvious choice would be Jay-Z’s longtime frenemy, the newly christened Ye. At various turns besties, collaborators and rivals, the pair’s respective discographies are certainly comparable — Jay currently has 22 top 10 Billboard Hot 100 singles while West has notched 20, and each have earned four Hot 100 chart-toppers over the course of their careers. Of course, the duo also share their collaborative album Watch the Throne from back in 2011, which spawned numerous singles including “N—as in Paris,” “Lift Off” and “No Church in the Wild” as well as other hits like 2009’s “Run This Town” with Rihanna, 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy favorite “Monster” and 2021 Donda album cut “Jail.”
One name consistently thrown out on social media as a potential heavyweight competitor against Carter is Busta Rhymes. While Busta only has seven top 10 Hot 100 hits compared to Hov’s nearly 2 dozen, he’s sold more than 9 million records over the course of his career and also got his start in the mid-’90s with the release of 1996’s The Coming arriving just three months before Jay’s debut album Reasonable Doubt. Plus, a Verzuz face-off between the pair would be the perfect excuse for a surprise Mariah Carey cameo to pit their verses on 1999’s “Heartbreaker” and 2003’s I Know What You Want” against each other. A bonus: They were classmates at Brooklyn’s George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, alongside fellow future hip-hop heavyweights Notorious B.I.G. and DMX, so these two have history.
It’s no secret that Jay has been beefing with Lil Wayne since at least 2007, back when the latter dropped his mixtape Da Drought 3, which featured a number of freestyle raps over instrumentals that sampled songs by Jay-Z. One of those tracks was “Dough Is What I Got,” Wayne’s freestyle over Jay’s 2006 Kingdom Come lead single “Show Me What You Got.” But it wasn’t until 2020 that Jay-Z came clean about just how much the song rattled him, admitting, “When he rapped on ‘Show Me What You Got,’ I had to take a long walk and look at myself in the mirror. … I said, ‘Are you sure you still got this?'” Considering getting under your opponent’s skin is the first step to a Verzuz rivalry, a Carter vs. Carter showdown could turn out to be exactly what fans want.
Will the real greatest rapper of all time please stand up? Watching Eminem and Jay go tit-for-tat on the Verzuz stage would be one for the ages. And for his part, Marshall Mathers actually outpaces Jigga on the charts by just a hair, with five Hot 100 No. 1s compared to the latter’s four and the exact same number of top 10s. In fact, it could even be argued that Em’s performance on the charts in recent years has his rival undoubtedly beat — he’s scored major hits the last half-decade with “River” featuring Ed Sheeran, “Killshot,” the posthumous Juice WRLD collab “Godzilla” and a guest assist on Logic’s “Homicide.” Meanwhile, Jay’s last track to reach the top 10 was his 2013 duet with wife Beyoncé “Drunk in Love.”
Speaking of Beyoncé, what better way to settle the throne once and for all than with a battle between king and queen? Plenty of fans want a showdown between Jay-Z and a fellow rapper, but his real, true peer has always been Queen Bey. After all, the two are already shortlisted against one another for best original song at next year’s Oscars ceremony (him for for “Guns Go Bang” from The Harder They Fall, her for King Richard‘s “Be Alive”). Let’s just hope for his sake that she doesn’t whip out anything from Lemonade as a T.K.O. against her hubby.