Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, the legendary superproducers with nearly six decades of music hits between them, are working with Lena Waithe‘s entertainment company Hillman Grad Productions for a documentary covering the success of their online music battle series VERZUZ.
Initially reported by Deadline, Amazon Studios is involved with the project along with and filmmakers James Adolphus and Ben Selkow of Good Trouble Studios. The documentary will be titled Gifted & Black and is going to air on Prime Video at a later date.
The first VERZUZ battle took place in March 2020 and was between Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, at the very beginning of the pandemic. “When we first started this mission the entire world had hit rock bottom,” Beatz said in a statement. “People were going through so much and Tim and I felt we should do something to help folks escape. The rest is history, we made the magical call to Hillman Grad because we only wanted people to see the best of the best.”
“Tim and I have always been competitive with each other in different ways,” Swizz Beatz said in a Variety interview two months after VERZUZ launched. “Actually, we didn’t get along for a long time. No real reason — we just didn’t.” But after Timbaland visited Beatz at his home in 2007, the pair began thinking of ways to work together instead of each other.
“People love a good fight, and Kanye, as an artist, was at his height [around 2007],” Beatz told the outlet, “but battles had never been done with producers before. Tim and I started talking then about doing something similar, off-and-on.”
The pandemic provided a great opportunity for the two to flex their collaborative-yet-competitive chops. It unfortunately kept many people trapped at home with few means of entertainment, but it also left musicians hamstrung because they couldn’t connect with their fans and perform live, too.
“The launch of Verzuz reminded us of the multigenerational excitement for music ‘battles,’ which gave us the escape we all craved in 2020,” said Matt Newman, co-head of movies at Amazon Studios. “We are thrilled to work with Hillman Grad, Good Trouble, Swizz Beatz, and Timbaland to give audiences a behind-the-scenes look at the building of the Verzuz franchise.”
VERZUZ was serendipitous for fans and entertainers alike, and it became one of the pandemic’s business success stories. It continued to flourish, even as restrictions relaxed and despite industry insiders’ concerns, to the point that TikTok rival Triller eventually bought VERZUZ from Timbaland and Beatz for an undisclosed sum in March 2021.
“Swizz and I are excited to show the world everything that took place behind scenes during the process, while celebrating the artists that helped us build Verzuz,” Timbaland said. “Thank you to our entire team, Hillman Grad, James Adolphus, Ben Selkow, Amazon, Triller, and everyone involved. Verzuz came from our love of culture and our love of music and the fact that it has become the force it is today is way beyond anything Swizz or I could’ve imagined.”
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