On May 9, 2020, thousands of households gathered on Instagram to witness the first live battle between the two music icons Jill Scott and Erykah Badu. Over 700,000 people tuned in to watch the queens of Neo-Soul go head-to-head in a battle that has been argued in every living room and open mic for two decades. Their views broke the record of viewers for all Verzuz battles by over 200,000. This was the first Verzuz battle featuring women, and while the hits had everyone, including former First Lady Michelle Obama, dancing in their quarantine cozies, the real winner was the culture.
The battle began with the poetry of Sonia Sanchez and a tribute to the gathering of Black people through gospel music. Then, for over 3 hours, the singers played hit after hit, gracing each other with kind words and fond memories. The world watched as they uplifted one another and enjoyed each other’s music. Scott encouraged the creative community, which has been deeply affected by the quarantine, to continue creating because the world needs it. She credits her early artistic inspiration to poets such as the famed Nikki Giovanni, and the artists repeatedly honored the legacies of legendary Black female artists like Chaka Khan, Nina Simone, and Minnie Riperton.
Badu revealed the depth of her relationship with Scott, dismantling any inkling that the two are in competition. She also shared her self-care tips for when she feels frustrated, citing mindfulness in noticing her breathing and working to dispel anxiety in her thoughts. Both artists revealed that they have written songs for one another. The world felt the honor among women when Scott played “Tyrone,” which was trending on Twitter along with “Crown Royal,” in the wake of Badu’s technical difficulty.
Viewers experienced a collective sigh with the display of sisterhood and camaraderie. Many users reported feelings of nostalgia and relief during this event. One fan said the battle made her feel as if she was “…right where [I] need to be in terms of the essence of [my] womanhood and the friends that [I’ve] chosen to be in my tribe.” Watching Scott support Badu through playing “Tyrone” reminded her of the importance of having “women who uplift you and support you genuinely and selflessly.” Some fans claimed that the show felt less like a battle and more like a concert. On this Mother’s Day weekend, both artists exhibited the healing power of Black women coming together to spread joy and positivity.