R&B titans Babyface and Teddy Riley have finally faced each other in a battle to go down in history, via Instagram Live yesterday, April 20.
Both singer-songwriters appeared in the IG Live looking prepared and at the top of the game - with Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds coming in sophisticated with a maroon velvet blazer on top of a white shirt. In contrast, Teddy Riley looks ready to rumble with a towel around his neck. The musical "Thrilla in Manila" treated the online viewers, which numbered more than half a million at one point, to hit after hit that made up the bulk of 80s and 90s R&B chart-toppers.
A pinned comment on the IG Live said that this R&B "Verzuz" Battle was "brought to you by Swizz Beatz and Timbaland," referring to another pair of legendary producers who first held their beats battle last March 24.
While both artists started their respective careers as performers, with Babyface singing solo and Teddy Riley is a part of the R&B act "Guy," the songs they produced for other artists are what cemented their legacy in modern music history.
A Fiery Exchange of R&B Hits
Teddy Riley opened up the exchange with SWV's smash hit "Right Here (Human Nature Remix)." Babyface shared an anecdote of Michael Jackson, whose "Human Nature" was sampled for the SWV track, trying to get to Halle Berry through him. Babyface then related it to a quote Berry said on the 1992 movie "Boomerang," before responding with his work on the movie soundtrack - "Love Shoulda Brought You Home" by Toni Braxton.
Both artists then went into an exchange of complementing hits, such as Babyface's own "Whip Appeal," getting answered with "Let's Chill" by Riley's group Guy.
Coach Riley dropped some favorite tracks, including Foxy Brown and Blackstreet's "Get Me Home," Hi-Five's "I Like The Way (The Kissing Game), Kevin Sweat's "Make It Last Forever" and "I Want Her."
Babyface, from his side, played his tracks "Every Time I Close My Eyes" and "Tender Lover," After 7's "Ready or Not," and Bobby Brown's "Every Little Step" and "On Our Own."
Later in the battle, the hitmakers started throwing in the heavy hitters in their respective catalogs. Riley took out Jay-Z ft. Blackstreet's "The City is Mine," as well as the R&B group's "Before I Let You Go" and "Deep," and Michael Jackson's "In The Closet." Edmonds did TLC's "Red Light Special," Johnny Gill's "My My My," and Karyn White's "Superwoman."
Last-Minute Technical Difficulties and "Who Won the Battle?"
Unfortunately, Riley's impressive repository has been marred by intermittent lags in his connection, causing his feed to freeze or his songs to stop halfway. It was also the reason why the original schedule last Saturday, April 18, had to be postponed.
Riley's less-than-reliable Internet connection would get him, Babyface, and close to half a million viewers in a bummer. Just as Babyface drops the Boyz II Men chart-topper "I'll Make Love To You," Riley got temporarily disconnected, allowing his opponent to play a few more tunes to keep the air alive. Babyface went on with "Dial My Heart" by The Boys, then the Eric Clapton classic "Change the World," before Toni Braxton's "Another Sad Love Song."
Riley then returns, carrying "Blood on the Dance Floor" by the King of Pop himself. Technical difficulties now prevent them from being both in the live stream. As Babyface loses patience with the interruptions, he drops other giants - the Whitney Houston - CeCe Williams collab "Count of Me" followed by the Houston - Mariah Carey epic "When You Believe." Riley was somehow able to respond with R&B hip-hop anthem "No Diggity" by Blackstreet featuring Dr. Dre & Queen Pen, followed by another MJ classic "Remember the Time."
In the heat of the classic exchange, Babyface paid tribute to Teddy Riley, saying, "You brought New Jack Swing to us all ... I'm honored to be in here with you, man." New Jack Swing is the fusion genre pioneered by Riley himself in the 80s and 90s. Riley responded that Babyface inspired him, to which Babyface said laughing, "We keep each other on our toes."
In the question of who won the epic producer battle, Toni Braxton had an answer: "Us. The culture," she wrote in a tweet.
There is no battle, you know who's winning? Us. The culture. #VERZUS — Toni Braxton (@tonibraxton) April 21, 2020
Lawyer, activist, and speaker April Reign argued that there's no reason to keep score and that it is impossible, inviting everyone to just two-step or running man and enjoy the even.
There's no reason to keep score. It's impossible. Just two-step (or running man) and enjoy. These Black men gave us so much. #Verzuz pic.twitter.com/yjAlCKI4DQ — April (@ReignOfApril) April 21, 2020