If there was ever a time where we needed to see two warring adversaries come together for the greater good, 2020 is it, and hopefully tonight’s Verzuz between Gucci Mane and Jeezy will be that beacon. The two rappers share a beef that goes back 15 years, involving failed collaborations, diss tracks, slick comments in interviews, subtweets, scuffles between respective crews in the streets of Atlanta and death.
Nick Love, former VP of Marketing & Promotions for Jeezy’s Corporate Thug Entertainment was one of many who doubted the two rappers would actually go head-to-head, song-for-song in a virtual battle. “”I thought it was a hoax when I first heard about it” he admits. “The original flyer promoting it was cheesy. It had that old Pen & Pixel design so I figured some random person online and the internet did what the internet does. I didn’t think I’d ever see this day. But, here we are.”
Mixtape king and trap music legend DJ Drama, on the other hand, was ready to hope: “Yeah, I initially believed it,” he reveals. “I’d heard the talks, I heard the rumblings so I knew that there was a chance of it actually happening. It’s like when a huge fight comes together between two opponents that have been facing each other for years.”
Verzuz battles typically feature two good-natured competitors, matched up by genre and popularity within their respective communities. One of the most notable face-offs was the dancehall episode between Buju Banton and Bounty Killa, who also had their fair share of [back and forths] on record. But that beef between the two Jamaican DJs is nothing compared to the 15-year controversy between Gucci Mane and Jeezy.
“This is a dope pairing because both Jeezy and Gucci are legends in the trap subgenre that, even as it’s shifted and evolved, it’s still dominating and this is like two mountains or two glaciers that are finally meeting,” Love emphasizes, floridly. “You know how scientists are always saying how one day an earthquake or some other natural catastrophe is gonna happen and California is gonna just break off and drift into the sea? This is that!”
The beef goes back to 2004, when both artists were bubbling up throughout the Atlanta Metro area. Gucci Mane was raised on Atlanta’s Eastside, and fans felt they had a direct line to his local credibility. Gucci’s work ethic simply couldn’t be matched: He was always outside, doing what was necessary to promote himself while consistently flooding the streets with new work, and his mixtapes were omnipresent from the east to the west side of Interstate 20.
Young Jeezy, on the other hand, was a newcomer from Hawkinsville, GA, roughly two hours away from Atlanta’s center. Although his reputation couldn’t be traced as easily as Gucci Mane’s, he had his own weighted connections within the city and the music was strong enough that he couldn’t be ignored. He’d already garnered critical acclaim for his mixtapes Tha Streets Iz Watchin and Trap or Die with DJ Drama.
It only made sense that the two collaborate sooner than later. In 2005, Gucci and Jeezy joined forces on two tracks, “Black Tees” and “So Icy,” both produced by then up-and-coming beatsmith Zaytoven. “Icy” caught fire almost instantly in rap circles and Gucci Mane pushed it as his lead single from his debut LP, Traphouse.
This should’ve been an easy win for both MCs, but months later, rumors of discord began to float across Atlanta. The initial beef was rooted in Gucci Mane’s perceived annoyance with Jeezy’s absence when it came to performing their track live — a major part of promotion. Some wondered if the reason this never happened is because Jeezy had hoped to add the smash to his album as well, but his inquiry wasn’t approved.