At the end of last night’s Verzuz battle, Gucci Mane and Jeezy played their “So icy” collaboration during a bonus round, Gucci thanked Jeezy for extending the olive branch to end their beef, and they announced a joint afterparty together (during a pandemic). Someone late to the stream may have thought those good vibes were the tone of the entire night, but it was actually one of the most surreal hip-hop events ever.
This Verzuz battle didn’t have much to do with hits. There were fans at home scoring rounds per usual, but once Gucci unleashed the disrespect of “The Truth,” then joked about “smokin’ on Pookie Loc“ tonight, the terms of winning a round had been flipped upside down. It wasn’t a hits battle anymore. It was a spectacle with big implications. Gucci spent most of the night playing disses in lieu of standards like “Freaky Girl,” “Traphouse 3,” and “Off The Leash,” and Jeezy responded to many of them with comments like, “That’s cute.”
For much of the night, the tension was thicker than the bricks both men had become legends for rapping about. Gucci and Jeezy had a previous public truce in 2009 when Gucci randomly called into DJ Drama’s show from jail (while Jeezy was a guest) and proclaimed, “It’s way bigger than all of us. I feel like the way the city’s been supporting all three of us, they deserve this. It’s about that time, man. We’re getting older, growing, so let’s do it for the city.” But after a 2010 fight involving Waka Flocka and both men’s entourages, the peace evaporated.
There’s multiplicity in all of us. Perhaps Gucci really wanted to focus on the bigger picture, but Jeezy had put a $10K bounty on his chain on “Stay Strapped.” Truly burying the hatchet wasn’t going to be as simple as a couple adages. Years later, during a September 2013 Breakfast Club interview, Gucci admitted, “it wouldn’t have been real” if they had left it on that note. Last night, though, it seems like we got real. We got the beef settled—as much as it’s going to be, anyway—on both men’s terms. Budding politician Jeezy got to feel comfort in showing the youth the “bigger picture,” and Gucci got his aggressive catharsis one Jeezy diss at a time.
Just yesterday, in a GQ oral history of Verzuz, Swizz reflected that “Sean Garrett and Dream made us be extra, extra conscious of the energy that we put together.” The two singer-songwriters had thrown shots at each other in the lead-up to their battle, which led to awkward interactions throughout their clash. After that, most of the battles were extra-friendly mutual celebrations. But then there was Brandy-Monica. The two had their own tumultuous history, which was mostly squashed, but the amount of shade they threw at each other wasn’t lost on viewers. And that’s fine. Forced “good vibes” is phony. Honesty is always good content. Enter Gucci-Jeezy, which one Twitter user joked was “Brandy and Monica with guns.”
Gucci Mane upped the anticipation by uploading “The Truth” to DSPs and YouTube hours before the battle, which fueled social media speculation. Was he just trolling? Would he defile the mostly congenial ethos of Verzuz by actually playing a diss? We quickly got our answer when Gucci opened the night with “Round 1,” which started off with his clarification: “Just for the record man, that nigga Young Jeezy, that nigga fake man.” Social media was in an uproar that Gucci had immediately taken Verzuz somewhere it had never been before. By the time Gucci followed up with “Benchwarmers,” another Jeezy diss, it seemed like a legitimate possibility that he would spend his entire night being as disrespectful as possible.
Gucci eventually went through some of his most-beloved non-disses, but still found a way to throw shots at Jeezy along the way, berating him to “make a new hit” while he played songs with modern stars like Drake, Bruno Mars, and Migos. He even found time to diss Jeezy’s BMF-celebrating wardrobe, imploring the crowd to “look at my opponent.” Jeezy threw shots back, playing his “Stay Strapped” diss and noting that he wasn’t worried about expensive clothes because he “owned half of Atlanta.” He held his ground, but for many, his stoic nature was no match for Gucci’s natural vexed hilarity. He told the Breakfast Club today that he refused to allow Gucci to antagonize him with the disses because “we ain’t sixth graders.”
That said, for some, Jeezy’s string of ’00s hits was the real story of the night. People surmised Gucci had resorted to throwing shots because he didn’t have as many hits. In the leadup to the battle, Guwop’s modern success and inimitable personality may have cast a shadow over just how dominant Jeezy was at one point in his career. Even Kanye West once admitted that his creative process was, “What would [Young] Jeezy do?” For a time, Jeezy mastered the nexus of the streets like few artists ever have. He decided to let the music do most of the talking.
But as Gucci reflected to Jeezy during their mid-battle argument, he wanted to “keep it street.” Gucci played deep cuts like “Vette Ride Past,” “Street Niggaz,” “Photoshoot,” and “I’m A Dog.” He left songs like “Freaky Girl” on the table just to affirm his mixtape supremacy. After all, they were in Magic City, an Atlanta institution. Jermaine Dupri has said the strip club was essentially the testing ground for hits in Atlanta. The past 20 years of mainstream rap have been Atlanta to the world, and Gucci sought to show that with classics from one of the greatest mixtape discographies in rap history. Verzuz is often a celebration of Billboard smashes, but we could never forget about the streets.
Gucci kept it street first, especially once he delved into “The Truth,” acting out the infamous “go dig ya’ partner up” line, crudely joking that he was “smokin’ on that Pookie Loc all night,” and warning that he’d kill again if pressed. At this point, the night devolved from some errant comments to full-on fighting words. In a year of firsts, millions of people got a live look-in as a rapper had to sit and eat a flagrantly disrespectful diss that was being performed to his face. To Jeezy’s credit, he handled it decently, responding with a plea to peace referencing recently slain rappers. He probably knew the diss was coming, as Gucci divulged that he already told Jeezy he was going to play disses on their phone call to set up the match. No one knew what to expect heading into this battle, but we immediately realized this would be the moment that lived in infamy. Jeezy tried to be the bigger man, but some thought that his speech was conveniently righteous when he wasn’t the one who was almost killed.
At the end of the battle, Jeezy cut the mic and ominously stated, “It’s me and you… We can do this shit right here in this room and leave it where it’s at.“ It almost seemed like he was about to offer a fade. But true to the roller coast nature of the night, he instead proposed to do “So Icy” “one last time,” and the energy kicked upward as they performed the flashy hit while everyone in the room danced in unison. All’s well that ends well.
Afterward, Swizz called the night “bigger than Verzuz,” expressing that the two rappers needed the event to air out their grievances. He challenged mainstream outlets to report that the Verzuz didn’t end in violence. He’s right. Hip-hop did, after all, start as an alternative to violence. Instead of hearing that some nonsense happened because Gucci and Jeezy ran into each other before properly squashing their issues, they got out their pent-up aggression for everyone to see. Perhaps that’s why T.I. stepped out of the battle with Jeezy to let Gucci go at it, as he boasted in the comments. Hopefully, their positive resolution will make other artists and everyday people reflect on letting go of their own beefs.
Verzuz is a one-of-a-kind platform. And this Verzuz was even more unique, because it was part concert, part shit-talking session, and part catharsis. Gucci’s wife Keyshia Ka’Oir tweeted afterwards that, “I’m definitely proud of u hubby! It took a lot of forgiveness, healing & courage to get up there in front of the world! Everyone knows your history & now u have closure & can move on!”
It’s still unclear if Gucci and Jeezy even like each other. And with a deceased man in the middle, they’re probably never going to be much more than cordial. But at least, in a shitty year, we got a break in the clouds from the Snowman and So Icy CEO.