Bounty vs Beenie. It’s a rivalry that has spanned close to three decades in Dancehall and Jamaica. This dynamic duo is responsible for arguably one of Dancehall’s most successful era internationally and has been a huge influence on the rest of the world with the Jamaican culture.
There have been some heated moments in this longtime rivalry, with both artistes never pulling any punches against each other on the mic. Over the years though, their rivalry has gotten far less fierce and certainly more friendly. This has never been more evident than Saturday, May 23rd, 2020, when the latest edition of the Verzuz battle saw the Dancehall veterans take center stage, literally.
If you’ve been watching Verzuz battles since COVID-19, you would have noticed that artistes battling against each other go live online via IG in the comfort of their homes. They set up their own music and go song for song while giving the background on each and its relevance. This time though, it had to be different. One of Jamaica’s alluring attributes is our ability to do things differently. We are always able to take things up a notch, mix it with another style and concoct an epic, smooth, hype and enviable vibe.
Veteran Hip Hop producers Swizz Beats and Timbaland, owners of Verzuz TV, did not know what they were in for when they arranged this battle. It was set up like a live uncut performance without an audience. Two of Jamaica’s premier Disc Jockeys, Richie B and DJ Kurt Riley, played a warm-up set, unleashing some sweet Lovers Rock and Reggae hits. But they weren’t done. Each disc jockey was assigned an artiste and they were responsible for playing their artiste’s song on cue. With this arrangement, Bounty and Beenie went to work!
For each song played, the other artiste recalled how the song affected them when it was originally released and explained what they had to do to get one up in response. The 450,000 member online audience tuned in, were being treated to a Dancehall masterclass, with both artistes playing hits after hits after hits. Every song played, reminded us of just how important our culture and our music is to the rest of the world. Veteran Hip Hop artiste Busta Rhymes shared the same sentiment when he commented “Make sure you all know this is how Hip Hop was born!! Dancehall is our father!!!!” Bounty and Beenie reminded us of the timelessness of their music; they could play songs that were released in the 90s and still have the same impact they did back then. Songs that plenty Dancehall fans today, were never alive to hear when they were originally released.
What was even more pleasing to see was the dynamic that the two legends shared, the respect shown even in competition and the tomfoolery and showmanship from both of them. This contributed to what was without a doubt Verzuz’ most epic battle so far. Two men who warred lyrically and traded barbs and bars against each other for well over two decades, stood shoulder to shoulder, even doing ad-libs and sound effects for each other’s songs.
Of the 450,000 people that tuned in, I lost count of the number of international superstars that were present. People like Rihanna, Erykah Badu, Dwayne Wade, Nas, Swizz Beats, Timbaland to name only a few. There was a voice note that was circulating on social media shortly after the battle, with Swizz Beats recalling to a colleague that he cried, watching this epic performance. Swizz Beats also said this was by far the best battle and was indeed a hard act to follow.
If you are a Jamaican or follow Jamaican and Dancehall music, you would not be entirely surprised when the police showed up in the middle of the battle. And with a sight that has become renowned at Dancehall events, Beenie basically admonishing them for trying to ”lock off di dance.” Beenie said to the officers “A 500,000 people a watch we, don’t be that guy” while they carried out their duties in light of the curfew that was in place. This was indeed a classic Dancehall moment and it would not be entirely far-fetched if one thought that it was staged.
Plenty fans will no doubt be shouting their winner for the night, and rightfully so. Beenie and Bounty gave us all a treat. But in the end, there were two winners, Jamaica and Dancehall.
Written by: Jason McPherson