Hey Trapitalists. Hope you had a safe and fun weekend. Yesterday, the first two episodes of ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary came through to keep us entertained. But on Saturday, the Verzuz series between Teddy Riley and Babyface kept us entertained for a very different reason!
This update covers the Verzuz battle technical difficulties, why it’s a blessing in disguise, and the success of Drake’s “Toosie Slide.”
Verzuz Battle Postponed Due to Technical Difficulties
The two music legends were supposed to square off as part Swizz Beatz and Timbaland‘s Instagram battle series … and nearly 400k people were tuned in to watch it go down. Babyface was solo, set up in what looked like his home studio, and Teddy had something more elaborate … with a microphone and crew around him.
The audio issues were immediate, Teddy’s sound was muffled, ruining the timing and quality, while Babyface’s sounded perfectly clear.
Teddy — who had what appeared to be an audio crew with him — took several pauses, trying to fix the tech issues … but the sound never improved and the competition ultimately got canceled.
Here’s a clip from Saturday night.
For those keeping track, this was the second postponement. The original battle was slated for April 5. Babyface had contracted COVID-19 and needed to recover. But that wasn’t the ONLY reason for the initial delay. Teddy had grander plans up his sleeve.
If you’ve watched any of the other live battles, you would’ve noticed that after an hour, the live will automatically end. Both artists then have to go live with each other again. Riley wants to make sure that doesn’t happen during his battle.
“We pulled back because we really want this done right,” he continued. “We don’t want the [feed to stop after an hour on]…Instagram. That’s the main reason why.”
The super producer also hinted that the battle will now happen on “a new system” where fans will be able to “swipe up” to watch it live.
“The company that I’m a partner of, I thought that this is something that would be great for them to take this to another level,” he added.
Riley also said that he wants there to be celebrity mediators during his head-to-head face-off with Babyface.
Here’s a clip from Teddy’s website. The audio is crystal clear:
— Mercedez (@MercedezUAZ2) April 19, 2020
Teddy’s priorities were out of sync. Verzuz founder Swizz Beatz had to remind folks that less is more. He also introduced the acronym DTM: doing too much.
In last week’s article, I acknowledged the limitations of IG Live:
Instagram’s weaker areas are its performance and range of functions. Swizz Beatz Verzuz series is fine in its current form. The Ruff Ryders producer has not monetized it and doesn’t plan to anytime soon. But when he does, there are other platforms built to make it possible. Caffeine is already a livestream hub with experience in emcee battles. A partnership with Swizz could go a long way. The same is true with Twitch and other livestreaming services.
In fairness, Teddy Riley was ten-steps ahead. But he should have let Swizz Beatz handle that and not take it into his own hands. He put the cart before the horse.
A Blessing in Disguise?
Before Saturday, Verzuz had been relatively tame. There were a few noteworthy moments, but nothing went viral. That changed Saturday night. Teddy Riley’s screw-up was a peak moment for Black Twitter. Comedians like Spice Adams had their own viral moments with spoofs on Teddy Riley. The failed battle got mainstream coverage. It was by far the most earned media that Verzuz has had.
These moments now feel like a rite of passage. Several, popular shows can date back to viral moments that boosted their audience.
By the mid-2010s, The Breakfast Club had hit its stride. It was a mandatory stop for the biggest hip-hop stars in the world. But that hip-hop radio show went to another level in April 2016 when they interviewed Birdman. The Cash Money exec wanted respeck on his name because Charlamagne Tha God had repeatedly called him out (rightfully so) for not paying artists. Birdman’s antics became a legendary meme. It was an inflection point for the already popular show.
A similar thing happened for Hot 97’s The Morning Show. In 2012, the show was actually in danger of getting canceled. Power 105.1 had a big lead with The Breakfast Club, and showed no signs of letting up. But at Summer Jam 2012, Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg dissed performer Nicki Minaj ahead of her scheduled performance. She abruptly canceled. They took that drama to an even more memorable interview. It gave the radio show new life and it’s been strong ever since.
These moments always involve a mishap, which gives fans something to laugh at. We made fun of Birdman. We argued about who was right or wrong—Nicki or Rosenberg. But those programs have reaped the rewards.
Swizz Beatz may be understandably annoyed about what happened on Saturday. He puts in work to run these battles. The last thing he wants is an avoidable issue, especially with a record audience in attendance. But I’m confident that this will help, not hurt, these series in the long run.
Toosie Slide is the #1 Song in the U.S.
Here’s what I wrote two weeks ago:
“Toosie Slide” has gotten all the earned media and attention it dreamed of in the past 72 hours. But media coverage is not the same as virality. We won’t know the true impact of this unless we see organic memes explode on TikTok and Instagram in the next few weeks.
I’m clearly skeptical, but I also acknowledge that Drake is in his own class. But if Drake, the biggest rapper in the world, can take all the smart steps and pivots to make a dance take off and it STILL doesn’t happen, then there are probably better ways for most artists to spend their time.
I got his one wrong. “Toosie Slide” is now the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s done quite well on TikTok too.
Sources at the video creation app tell us the hashtag #ToosieSlide hit a billion views in just 2 days … giving Drake the fastest music trend to reach a billion views on the platform.
I was skeptical of “Toosie Slide” because it broke an unwritten rule of social media. Few artists have succeeded in forcing virality. In the past two years, we’ve seen Beyonce, Lil Wayne, and Chance the Rapper all push “challenges” with lackluster response. I believed that Drake would have a similar fate.
But let’s say LeBron James tweeted, “Yea this Michael Jordan doc is good but that doesn’t make him the GOAT.” Social media would explode. If Cardi B tweeted, “I hope Nicki and I can move past our beef and make some music together,” it would go viral. If the person is popular enough, and the topic is charged enough, it will gain attention.
Similarly, if an artist is popular enough, and the “challenge” or dance is easy enough, it will gain steam.
The difference between Beyonce’s challenge and Drake’s dance is the ease. The Lemonade singer’s “Before I Let Go” challenge required some level of appreciation for Frankie Beverly and Maze to truly make the most of it. Gen Z–the most active audience for TikTok memes–doesn’t know anything about Frankie Beverly and Maze. There was an understandable disconnect. Meanwhile, Drake is literally telling listeners the instructions to the song. And it’s easy to do.
There’s no learning curve or prior cultural knowledge that will make someone better at the “Toosie Slide.” The same was true with the “Black Beatles” mannequin challenge. All we had to do was stand still.
Drake knew what he was doing and it worked. Don’t be surprised if he delivers another TikTok-inspired hit before the quarantine is over.