Editorial – While the head-to-head Verzuz battles orchestrated by Timbaland and Swizz Beatz to date have been incredible shows of mutual respect, the November 19 season two premiere promises to be one of the platform’s more unpredictable matchups — and not because of respective catalogs.

To say the relationship between Atlanta trap architects Gucci Mane and Jeezy has been rocky would be an absolute understatement. Instead, it’s been a 15-year rollercoaster that at its peak, resulted in the death of Jeezy associate Henry Lee Clark III, a.k.a. Pookie Loc. Though it looked like there may be a truce back in 2009, with both artists acknowledging that a collaboration was in the books, a melee between their crews put things on ice, where they’ve remained ever since.

What went so wrong? Well, it all stems back to their joint break out 2005 single “Icy,” which also featured Boo. While it wasn’t their first official collaboration (Jeezy hopped on Wop’s “Black Tee” not long before it), it was the most important for all involved, giving them their first taste of mainstream recognition.

“You’ve got Young Jeezy, the hottest guy in the streets … then you’ve got Gucci Mane, who’s like an underground guy who’s trying to get on,” celebrated producer Zaytoven (who crafted the single) noted in a 2015 oral retrospective of the track. “Both of these guys need the song real bad.”

Unfortunately, ownership of the song caused an irreparable rift between the two MCs. Jeezy was the more prominent artist having signed to Island Def Jam in 2004 — under then CEO L.A. Reid. It was a great situation, considering other albums dropped on the imprint in 2005 alongside his debut Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 included Rihanna’s debut Music of the Sun, Kanye West’s sophomore Late Registration and Mariah Carey’s 6x platinum Emancipation Of Mimi.

Def Jam was hoping to use the song to launch his major label run, but it belonged to Guwop, who didn’t see the bigger picture.

During the same oral retrospective, Gucci’s one-time manager Greg Street recalled attempting to talk the ATL visionary into rolling with the punches.

“If it blows up, the sky’s the limit for what you can ask for in a deal,” he recalled telling him. “But he didn’t understand that as a new artist … that’s how the whole beef started.”

Following the song’s official April 2005 release, frustrations compounded further, as Jeezy later recounted to Sway Calloway in 2011. Extensive performing had led to vocal chord damage that required throat surgery — something he kept from pretty much everyone at the time. As a result, he wasn’t able to perform the song live. Out of context to Gucci, his reluctance to help promote the track seemed incredibly disrespectful.

The song appeared on Wop’s debut LP Trap House, released via Big Cat Records, an ATL-based imprint distributed through Tommy Boy Records. The album peaked at No. 101 on Billboard’s Hot 200 and No. 23 on the Rap Tracks chart.

Still, egos clashed, and a war of words ensued in May 2005 (a month after the song’s release) — set off by some very direct threats via Jeezy’s “Stay Strapped,” where he appeared to place a $10,000 bounty on Guwop’s chain. Gucci answered with “Round 1” just days later.

Things escalated quickly when a botched home invasion on May 19, 2005 — just days before Trap House dropped — resulted in Gucci shooting and killing one of Jeezy’s artist’s Pookie Loc. There was an ensuing legal battle, with Gucci eventually acquitted and the death ruled as self-defense.

For many, including Gucci, it appeared unlikely that Jeezy wasn’t involved. The point of no return was so long gone that it was hard even to remember when it was passed.

Aside from a soft-hearted lull and failed truce 11-years-ago, the better part of the years since was marred with associates clashing, jabs in interviews, and savage disses. The most notable being Gucci’s 2011 “Truth,” where he told The Snowman to “Dig up his dead partner” and likened their rivalry to that of 2Pac and Biggie’s.

In some ways, it’s a worthy comparison. It’s curious to imagine if the late icons would entertain a similar opportunity to bury the hatchet had they lived. Gucci and Jeezy, now both in their 40s, have both had incredible careers despite their differences — though it’s not hard to think a whole album with “Icy” energy was a huge missed opportunity.

But, it’s never too late, and this Verzuz battle (and possible reconciliation) is undoubtedly a classic moment for fans of the southern giants.

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Collectively, the two have released 21 solo albums (nine of which topped Billboard’s Rap chart), dropped 169 singles and earned well over 20 platinum certifications each — which includes multi-platinum certifications.

 

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