Let’s talk about the historical, monumental, and hysterical Instagram Live battle between Teddy Riley and Babyface. This was the most anticipated battle of pandemic era time. Nostalgia for 90s R&B and New Jack Swing plus block parties brought around 500,000 people to watch this epic dual of music producers. They had to bring the hits, the shade, and the legends. In this video, I recap on how the battle went down and discuss what this live stream era means for culture.
Now, let’s dive deeper. As I mentioned in the video, this was such an enjoyable virtual experience. It was so cool to feel connected to everyone who is feeling the same nostalgia and joy in music and teasing each other. Taking note of how crisp Teddy Riley’s individual live stream, this is a really exciting time to see how virtual experiences evolve.
Looking to Instagram Live for music entertainment began with DJ D-Nice and his DJ sets coined “Club Quarantine.” In March of 2020 he set the record for the most live stream viewers in the history of Instagram while playing 9 hours straight. This was encouraging and uplifting because, if you read his story, he has been in the entertainment business for a long time without fully being recognized for his talent. He started in the mid-1980s as a member of a teenage hip-hop group Boogie Down Productions. He released a solo album in 1990 and 1991, which were produced by him, sold half a million copies, and reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Tracks chart. In spite of that, Hip Hop was considered one hit wonders by the main stream music industry, so his record label did not renew his contract. He later added photographer and DJ to his high-profile collection of hats. Fast forward to the stay-at-home order in L.A., DJ D-Nice decided to share his gift and live stream his DJ sets while sharing stories and shouting out people who were watching. You can read more about his story in this LA Times article.
This lead to the next wave of Instagram Live Stream trends: R&B producer battles. Swizz Beats and Timbaland host Verzuz beat battles on Instagram Live. In this series, two prominent producers pair up on IG Live to prove who has the better catalog. The live viewers decide who wins. Similar to the original DJ battles in Hip Hop history. Read more about who won the battles so far in this Vulture article. This series has been really cool because you get to enjoy the music while also getting insight on how many people are involved in creating a song. I think it is also an interactive way to celebrate history and culture.
Currently, these experiences are a way to cope and connect. I feel we should also be proactive in archiving these experiences and protecting the content. At the moment, live streaming is free and convenient. It will become the new normal for education, entertainment, and services. What does that mean for documenting and protecting culture? There are so many platforms to focus on. For example, during the Teddy Riley vs Babyface Verzuz battle, there was a lot of activity in the live comments and social media. There were also numerous reaction videos and articles. How could this be archived for a future exhibit?
This got me thinking about the future of museums and experiencing curated history and culture. Will we feel comfortable again to enter a room with a large group of people to enjoy an exhibit? Can the things and people needed for exhibits travel reliably? Is there enough funding to maintain the industry as is? I am someone who loves to take my time in museums and galleries in real life. As of yet, virtual tours of exhibits cannot create the same ambiance. I am excited to see how some museums and galleries are being innovative in thinking outside of the box. For example, the CFHILL gallery in Sweden is currently hosting their new exhibit BLACK VOICES / BLACK MICROCOSM to illustrate the “fragile intersection of art and race, gender roles and beauty and socio-economic, as a miniature representation of what it is to be human and black right now.” The exhibit features artists and artworks from 15 cities on 3 different continents. It includes a digital show opening, live streaming, guided 3D tours, artist talks, and video footage made by the artists in their studios. This is so neat!
“But,” you may ask, “what about the money? How do we monetize these collections?” Well, Black Art In America, an arts media company based in Georgia, is currently hosting a Black Art Auction virtually. Their website includes an online catalog, bidding account, and in person previews via Facetime.
When it comes to archiving, celebrating, and protecting the culture in the live stream era, we need to focus more on impact instead of likes and follows. Do we need platforms owned by people who represent the culture? Absolutely! Do we need people who represent the culture sitting at the table with established brands, platforms, and institutions? Absolutely! This is an opportunity to level and expand the playing field. Whether it is a live stream Hip Hop battle, carrot bacon, or Tik Tok dance challenge, we are once again setting the trends. This time, let’s own it.
Have you watched any of the IG Live sets or battles? What did you think of the Teddy Riley vs Babyface session?
Do you enjoy museums and galleries? How would you like to experience exhibits now?
Share with me in the comments. I love hearing from you. Feel free to reach out on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.