“the culture needed this…We probably inspired a hundred thousand producers tonight.”–Swizz Beats
Hip-hop has always been marked by ‘special moments’ throughout its timeline; for example, when BDP performed South Bronx for the first time, or when KRS-ONE threw PM Dawn off of a stage. How about when Kool Moe Dee massacred Busy Bee or the fabled battle between Jay-Z and DMX? Those are classic examples, but I mention them because they were pre-youtube, so there is no visual documentation—crowds just carried it with them.
2017 is entirely different; everything is documented, so special moments seem to pop-up every other day, making them infinitely ‘less special.’ That doesn’t mean, though, that they don’t truly happen. I would consider that feeling you had from reading the first edition of the XXL Freshman Class (that featured Saigon, Plies, Rich Boy, Gorilla Zoe, Joell Ortiz, Lupe Fiasco, Lil Boosie, Crooked I, Papoose, and Young Dro) was a ‘special moment.’ As well, the first BET Cypher, which included Papoose, Styles P, and Lupe Fiasco, was another one. The problem is, as time goes by that initial innovative ‘special moment’ or catalyst gets replicated, watered down, and stagnant. It’s a fact—repition leads to ruts.
This past Saturday, I—along with hundreds of thousands of other—got to experience something new, lighting a flame that maybe some of us hadn’t felt in a long time. Swizz Beats and Just Blaze, arguably two of the most influential producers of the past two decades, took to Instagram to announce a live beat battle, which they delivered on Saturday. It was streamed live on YouTube by Hot 97, and via Ebro’s phone on Instagram.
What transpired over two and a half hours was a back and forth battle, where each producer played (in various ways) their biggest hits; however, they had two completely different approaches. Just Blaze did a lot of chops, playing with his old samples. One highlight was when he replayed the “Oh Boy” sample, much to everyone’s delight. Swizz was more about just dropping hits–and chopping up essential parts. The best example is when he was cutting up “It’s Me Bitches” while grabbing his crotch. Classic.
From Just Blaze interrupting Swizz at one point, prompting a lighthearted altercation, to Busta Rhymes popping up and making a now infamous batch of faces–the battle was a blast to watch; however, even though no winner was officially crowned, Swizz was Twitter’s pick. Mostly because he dropped an epic unreleased record with Nas, Jay-Z, and DMX—prompting those watching to lose their shit. Busta’s face said it all [*laughs].
Just noted that after the announcement had been made about the battle, he was approached by many sources who had hoped to add a commercial spin to the event—they resisted. But, for how long? How long until this incredible idea gets taken to the maximum, pairing up every producer imaginable? Well, for now, it’s contained. If Twitter has its way, it looks as though we may see Pharell take on Timbaland.
Time will tell how this format will inevitably morph—and rest assured, it will. Sponsors will get involved; it will get watered down, forced, lame. Like so many moments, though, this battle is one that will go down in history; two titans who used a free platform to do something nobody [of their caliber] had yet to attempt. Swizz beats said it best at the end of the battle, “the culture needed this. We probably inspired a hundred thousand producers tonight–they will run with this creativity. ”
One word, classic.