April 06, 2020
From grime star Skepta to US hip-hop titan Timbaland, self-isolating rap producers are battling each other online to conquer coronavirus boredomCoronavirus and culture – a list of major cancellationsHow music has fought pandemics for 2,700 yearsRinsing bananas and teapots: comedians work from home‘You’re bringing violins and saxophones to the war, blud!” says Skepta from behind his laptop, taunting producer Jae5 in an Instagram beat battle last week. Promoted like a heavyweight championship fight, these lockdown boredom-beaters have a simple premise: two rappers or producers go head-to-head on Instagram live, taking turns to play their biggest tracks. Fans in the comment section decide the winner. Skepta, with a wealth of clash experience as an MC, was able to see off J Hus’s go-to producer with ease; rappers including Brit-winner Dave, Chip, and Novelist joined fans in debating the clash in the comments, firing up flame emojis with each new song.
He dominated me! The livestreaming beat battles shutting down lockdown
Battles like these are keeping rap and grime fans across the world entertained during the coronavirus pandemic, and show the genres’ agility in the face of adversity. US hip-hop superproducers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland kicked off the movement in March, and paved the way for a series of face-offs under their Verzuz banner. Boi-1da overpowered Hit-Boy with Drake hits, while 2000s mainstays Mannie Fresh and Scott Storch went back and forth until Storch pulled for his biggest hit, the Dr Dre classic Still DRE, and took the win. On Saturday night, Lil Jon sipped from a bejewelled chalice and blasted Turn Down for What while his opponent, Auto-Tune fanatic T-Pain, showed off his gold discs to the sound of collaborations with Kanye West and Flo Rida. Usher and Chance the Rapper were among the 280,000 people watching live.
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