There are feel-good vibes aplenty, as dancehall artistes Beenie Man and Bounty Killer are in the news again, setting more records with their epic Verzuz battle. The dynamic duo have seen a whopping 216 per cent increase in music streams following their still-talked-about, mother of all online showdowns in May. The information formed part of the Nielsen Music and MRC Data 2020 Midyear Report on music consumption and sales in the US. The report, which was released last Thursday, tracked the period January 3 to July 2.
The Jamaican dancehall artistes lost out on first place to Erykah Badu and Jill Scott by a mere one per cent. The Teddy Riley and Babyface battle placed third with a 90 per cent increase, while Ludacris and Nelly’s battle on May 16 raised their streaming numbers by a combined 30 per cent. In the report, Nielson outlined how the statistics were arrived at. They calculated the per cent increase by “tracking the combined number of streams for each artiste two days before their respective battles and compared them against the number of streams the day after the battle”.
Producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, who co-created the Verzuz Instagram Live series during the COVID-19 quarantine lockdown, had hundreds of thousands of fans – including celebs – glued to their devices as two prominent producers, singers or songwriters showcased their catalogues for entertainment purposes and also for bragging rights.
Vibe magazine noted that the Beenie Bounty matchup “was easily the most exciting and entertaining yet, as well as the first to delve into dancehall reggae. Considering the fact that Jamaican sound systems pioneered the sort of ‘beat battles’ have made Verzuz a social-media sensation, well over half a century ago, the creative decision was more than fitting. By pitting two icons of the genre, Bounty Killer and Beenie Man, in head-to-head competition, this Verzuz battle did not just showcase two of its most respected lyricists ever to hold a microphone, it also tapped into an epic rivalry that stretches back more than a quarter of a century.”
Bounty Killer told The Gleaner that he was on cloud nine. “I am feeling happy and thankful and gratified to Verzuz for having us showcase our music on their platform, and bless up to my manager, Bankey,” he said on Sunday morning, shortly after leaving the studio.
Music analyst Clyde McKenzie says the memorable Soundcalsh Edition of the Verzuz battle, staged on America’s Memorial Day weekend, has put to lie the many assumptions that were made about why dancehall music wasn’t getting traction internationally. “Over the years, I have maintained a very consistent position that Jamaican music is very popular but it has suffered from a lack of exposure on mainstream platforms. And therefore, this popularity has not been reflected on major charts. That has been the problem, rather than poor quality, which is one of the arguments,” McKenzie asserted.
He explained that this groundswell of support for the two artistes comes as no surprise to him and likened it to the historic Buju Banton Long Walk to Freedom sold-out concert held at the National Stadium in Kingston last year. “Fans from across the globe filled the stadium just to get a glimpse of Buju Banton. I have been on the road with Beenie Man and see how he is respected by the very best of the best internationally. Beenie, Bounty, Buju, they are three iconic figures, but many persons have underestimated the value and appeal that they bring to the table,” McKenzie said.
He chided state agencies such as the Jamaica Tourist Board for not using these artistes sufficiently in advertising campaigns. “There are arguments that some of them may have done things that are not wholesome, but these things have never impaired their respect on the streets.”
Notably, since the Nielson figures have been released, BET ran an article headlined, ‘Which artistes saw the biggest jump in streams after Verzuz? Erykah Badu and Jill Scott lead the pack, but second place might surprise you.’ Verzuz TV posted it to their Instagram account, and immediately there was a backlash in the comments section.
One followers who goes by the name iceman_ur stated, “No. 2nd place did NOT surprise anyone from the Caribbean.”
Alinzavi quizzed, “Why is the second place a surprise? Beenie and Bounty have been the best to this day!”