With self-isolation being employed universally to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Instagram Live has become the go-to for musicians of all stripes but especially stars of rap and R&B. Thanks to live battles, hundreds of thousands of viewers are able to witness a hitmaker’s skills in going up against a peer song-for-song while also judging a catalog of work. An added bonus: new, unreleased tracks are dropping too.
The rules are as follows: two music-makers trade off tracks that they have credits on — in 90 second samples — then those in the virtual room choose the winner of each round.
One of the first beat battles was between seasoned producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland. The epic evening consisted of throwback classics, from Swizz’s catalog with Beyonce, Jay-Z and DMX and Timbaland’s work with Missy Elliot, Madonna and Rihanna.
Soon after, Hit-Boy and Boi-1da announced “The Beat Battle You Don’t Want To Miss.” The latter Toronto native serves as Drake’s producer for OVO Sound, laying down the foundation for some of the rapper’s biggest songs from “God’s Plan” to “0 To 100” to “Work” featuring Rihanna.
During the IG live session, Boi-1da played not one, but two unreleased Drake singles. The first Drake snippet (which he unleashed out the gate) featured rap superstar Roddy Ricch and had fans in a frenzy. Drake is heard spitting: “I rock diamonds when I’m under pressure / It don’t ever let up / Look, I’m in the cut / The Boi in the cut!” (A reference to Boi-1da.)
Hit-Boy was ready to bounce back with bops like Jay Z and Kanye West’s “N–s In Paris,” A$AP Rocky’s “Goldie,” and Lil Wayne and Eminem’s “Drop The World.” But he had his own secret vault of unreleased joints, one with New York legend Nas and the other featuring Nipsey Hussle and Big Sean.
On the songwriters tip, a battle between The-Dream and Sean Garrett was highly entertaining, with The-Dream playing golf in front of his pool and Garrett going off on a rant about his love for Roc Nation and music — which later turned into its own meme.
The-Dream penned hits such as Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” but Garrett had Usher’s “Yeah!,” Ciara’s “Goodies” and Mario’s “Breakup.” One of the highlights of the battle was when the former unleashed two unreleased records: one with Grammy-winning R&B singer H.E.R. and the other a never-before-heard reference version of Jay-Z’s “Holy Grail.”
Mannie Fresh and Scott Storch also went head-to-head, the former filling in for T-Pain, but audiences knew that wasn’t the right fit. Both Fresh and Storch have legendary hits, with the former playing cuts like Lil Wayne’s “Go DJ” and Juvenile’s “Ha,” while the latter pulled Jay =0Z’s “The Watcher Pt. 2” and Beyonce’s “Baby Boy.” Still, when Storch proceeded to play an unreleased Ozuna remix of 50 Cent’s “Just A Lil Bit,” featuring Tyga, minds were blown.
On Saturday, 270,000 tuned in to yet another nostalgia-themed battle: Lil Jon vs. T-Pain. Both artists reminded audiences of their legendary status, with the former sipping’ on his gold Crunk Pimp Cup and the latter pulling out his iconic “Big Ass Chain.”
Lil Jon busted out an unreleased record with Usher and Ludacris that one Twitter user described as something “we’ve waited for for 20 years.” T-Pain, on the other hand, played unreleased Chris Brown (“Wake Up Dead”), but what really blew viewers away was his performance of 2008’s “Can’t Believe It,” unveiling his captivating vocals even without the help of autotune.
Also previewing new music via IG Live were The Weeknd, who played snippets of three unreleased records on his 21.9 million followers.
In related news, Tory Lanez made history on the platform when Drake checked into his “Quarantine Radio” on Instagram along with Justin Bieber, Megan The Stallion, Chris Brown and more. More than 300,000 viewers tuned in — breaking a record previously held by Taylor Swift — to hear the Toronto native play his singles “Do The Most” and “Who Needs Love” before the April 10 release of his full-length album “New Toronto 3.”
And Genius is getting into the game, hosting rapper Dame D.O.L.L.A.’s #4BarFriday virtual rap cypher where eight MCs battle against each other in three rounds over beats by 808 MAFIA’s Nonstop Da Hitman.
Additional battles are being proposed daily, with Swizz Beatz recently nominating Kanye West versus Pharrell to square off.