Many people in Black America will totally disagree with me on this, but “Verzuz” must eventually integrate.
During the pandemic, music producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz came up with the genius idea of having a battle of the bands type of event via Instagram in which music legends would battle each other, song for song.
Immediately, “Verzuz” took over Black America.
Hip-hop heads got battles like Method Man vs. Redman.
R&B fans from the 2000s got Keyshia Cole vs. Ashanti.
And old school R&B fans got a real battle of the bands with The Isley Brothers vs. Earth, Wind & Fire.
Timbaland and Swizz Beatz eventually sold the company to social media app Triller, which gave equity in the company to the artists who helped “Verzuz” blow up like Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Babyface, Teddy Riley, Snoop Dogg and the late, great DMX.
Almost immediately, many African-Americans like actor Michael Rainey (“Power Book II: Ghost”) called Swizz Beatz and Timbaland sell-outs for selling something created to celebrate African-American culture to the White man.
But the flip side of that argument is that if the White man took Swizz and Timbaland’s idea and did the same thing and called it something different, many in the African-American community would criticize them for stealing something that brothers created and getting rich off it.
Unfortunately, the African-American arts community has had to deal with people from other communities coming into our community and taking something we created and getting rich off it and leaving us with nothing.
We saw things like that happen to the creators of rock and roll music who came from the African-American community.
We have seen things like that happen in hip-hop when haters of the genre eventually saw the commercial success of the culture and attempted to capitalize on it.
As a creative, I know firsthand that an artist cannot copyright or trademark an idea.
A person can only protect the way in which they express themselves via their intellectual property.
In other words, if I want to write a rap song about growing up in the Inwood Forest neighborhood in Houston, I cannot stop another person from doing the same.
Another person just cannot write the exact same song that I wrote or one that is very similar.
Once I copyright my creation, it makes it that much more difficult for a person to steal my creation.
With that in mind, the only way to really prevent culture vultures from stealing the concept of “Verzuz” and going after a rock crowd or a country crowd is to invite those crowds into the culture.
As big as “Verzuz” is, and as much as many in the White community like African-American music, if someone created a battle of the bands and had showdowns between groups like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Who, The Doors, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, etc., the success would be monumental.
And the way America works, some people in White America would try to pretend that this new predominantly White battle of the bands was an original concept.
We saw what happened when Miley Cyrus twerked on Robin Thicke.
Some in the White community gave her credit for the dance as if it had not been a part of African-American culture for years before she did it.
As much as I love African-American culture and as much as I love the way “Verzuz” is already, African-Americans must learn to monetize and capitalize off our culture.
Many in the African-American community get mad when others capitalize off our culture.
However, then we get mad at people from our community like Swizz and Timbaland from capitalizing off their own creation and their own culture.
It is like we are complaining for the sake of complaining, not complaining to find a solution to our problems.
Nevertheless, “Verzuz” must diversify.
And an intelligent way to do so and not lose its original core audience is starting with White artists with a strong African-American fanbase.
I fail to believe that African-Americans would complain if “Verzuz” diversified initially with battles like Eminem vs. Jay-Z, Thicke vs. Jon B, Hall and Oates vs. Michael McDonald or Average White Band vs. The Doobie Brothers.
What about a biracial band like Sly and the Family Stone vs. another biracial band like Rufus & Chaka Khan?
As much as White people listen to African-American musicians, African-Americans listen to White musicians just as much.
I know many African-Americans who would love to watch a battle between The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones.
If Chris Stapleton battled any other country artist, I would definitely tune in.
In the past, I have had the conversation of “Verzuz” potentially integrating with several people.
Some people supported integrating “Verzuz” while others believed that it should stay just with the African-American community.
Besides the financial rewards of integrating “Verzuz” is the social rewards of integrating.
This country is too divided racially as is for people to encourage more division, just so we can brag that we did it for the culture.
It is time for us to use our culture, to financially elevate our community.
And it is time for us to use our culture to bring some healing and unity to this divided and polarized country.
Throughout history, music has always brought people together.
A wise person once said, music soothes the savage beast.
And music makes a boatload of money.
And the fact that “Verzuz” is the most brilliant thing to hit the music industry in a long time, it would be a shame if the creators of it (Swizz and Timbaland) do not take it all the way to the top.
Getting to the top would include bringing everyone along for the ride, not limiting the ride to one group.