Bobby Brown, Keith Sweat to compete in next Verzuz battle

On Thursday, as part of the Essence Festival of Culture, old-schoolers Sweat, who turns 60 on July 22, and Brown, 52, go head to head.

Two titans of rhythm and blues are going to battle it out in the next Verzuz event: Bobby Brown and Keith Sweat. And the good news is that fans won’t have to wait long to witness the matchup.

The popular competition series originated during the coronavirus pandemic as millions of Americans hunkered down in their homes during quarantine. Creators Swizz Beatz and Timbaland provided hours of entertainment as Black producers and, eventually, artists battled, each playing 20 of their best songs, with social media and pundits ultimately declaring a winner.

On July 1, as part of the Essence Festival, singers Bobby Brown (left) and Keith Sweat (right), two old-school favorites, will go head to head in a Verzuz battle (Photos by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET and Jason Kempin/Getty Images for BET)

On Thursday, July 1, as part of the Essence Festival of Culture, old-school favorites Sweat, who turns 60 on July 22, and Brown, 52, will take the stage against each other. 

The popular festival is still mostly virtual, with a schedule of streaming concerts still inspired by a “taste of New Orleans,” which is where the event originated. 

Essence and Verzuz both made the announcement on Tuesday, sparking a day of excitement on social media. The flyer for the event was inspired by an Essence magazine cover. 

Both Brown and Sweat had major careers in the 1980s and 1990s, and both were members of a group at one point, and they even have a group member in common: Johnny Gill. There was LSG — representing the late Gerald Levert, Sweat and Gill — and, with Brown, there’s New Edition, which Gill joined after his 1985 departure to go solo.

“Folks saying Keith Sweat will get mopped by Bobby Brown need to understand that Sweat’s career goes from 1987 to 2000,” longtime writer Keith Murphy contended on Twitter. “Like dude has a HEAVY bag. Like I said, Bobby def. needs that New Edition heat to give him an edge…This #Verzuz is going to be very interesting.” 

Another fan tweeted: “The way I’m about to be roger-rabbiting, cabbage patching, and doing the running man all throughout this Bobby Brown and Keith Sweat #VERZUZ !!! The New Jack Swing era was just perfection in every way.” 

Most recently, millennial rappers Soulja Boy and Bow Wow participated in a Verzuz matchup this past weekend. Others have featured legendary singers Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight, plus iconic bands The Isley Brothers and Earth, Wind & Fire. All Verzuz battles tend to dominate Black Twitter, and this one will be no exception. 

This is the second time this week Verzuz has been in the news. Earlier this week, female rap diva Lil Kim finally announced who she would be interested in battling: Nicki Minaj. A one-on-one between the two could make it one of the highest-viewed Verzuz events ever.

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