Arguably the most prominent institution to emerge from this year’s state of widespread lockdown is the Verzuz battle. Conceived by Timbaland and Swizz Beatz as a way to entertain homebound people during the early days of the pandemic, Verzuz events pit two comparable musical acts from the same era against each other in an informal livestreamed contest. There’s no official winner, just two artists attempting to one-up each other, hit after hit, in some online descendant of sound clashes and street-corner rap battles. Thus far the events have matched up rappers, singers, and producers from eras ranging from the 1990s to the early 2010s. They’ve been as recent as Rick Ross vs. 2 Chainz and gone as far back as RZA vs. DJ Premier. But now Verzuz it taking it really old-school.
This coming Sunday, Sept. 13, Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle will face off in the latest Verzuz battle. The two 76-year-old soul legends are worthy competitors. They were born four days apart in May 1944. They’ve both racked up a stunning number of classic records in their lifetimes, including the #1 hits “Midnight Train To Georgia” (Knight) and “Lady Marmalade” (LaBelle). Even their nicknames align them: Knight is known as the Empress of Soul; LaBelle is the Godmother of Soul.
The Verzuz Instagram account teases, “Leave ya church clothes on all Sunday and pull up to the affair of all affairs. Y’all gotta get dressed up in ya Sunday’s best for this one.” The Knight/LaBelle battle will be viewable on Verzuz Instagram Live and Apple Music starting at 8PM ET this Sunday.