The latest installment of Verzuz occurred Tuesday night (Sept. 14) at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City, when rap legends Fat Joe and Ja Rule faced off in a battle of street anthems, radio hits, and surprise guests.
The first Verzuz to take place following the epic matchup of The LOX and Dipset, which continued to capture the attention and imagination of the hip-hop community weeks after the event, the showdown was a hard act to follow.
However, Fat Joe and Ja Rule’s pairing yielded its own share of fireworks with the Bronx bomber and the Hollis, Queens native commanding the crowd with timeless jams while attempting to sway the crowd and rattle their counterpart with brutal trash-talk, questioning each other’s ability to outlast the other over the duration of 20 rounds.
All in all, the evening was a win for hip-hop with many crowning Ja Rule as the victor, while others remained more partial to Joey Crack, a reminder that the aggression and competitiveness that drives the culture can be contained and presented in a respectful and thoughtful manner.
VIBE highlights five of the best moments from Fat Joe and Ja Rule’s Verzuz battle that captured our attention and has the streets buzzing.
1. Remy Ma Channeling The Spirit Of Big Pun
Nearly 20 minutes into the battle, Fat Joe was the first of the two artists to bring out a surprise guest, as the Terror Squad General summoned his crew’s First Lady, Remy Ma, to the stage.
Walking out to the “Ante Up (Remix)” instrumental, Remy abruptly reeled off her late mentor Big Pun’s verses from “Twinz (Deep Cover ’98),” his 1998 collaboration with Fat Joe. While physically Pun was not in attendance at the battle, his rap family made sure that his presence and energy were felt with their heartfelt tribute to the first Latin rapper to ever go platinum and baffle our collective skulls.
2. Ja Rule Proclaiming Himself The Original “Singing Rapper”
Friendly slights were levied between the pair as the competitive banter ramped up with Rule responding to Joe’s complaint that he had been “singing all night,” by proclaiming himself as the original rap-singer and taking responsibility for the modern rap crooner.
“That’s what I do. Are y’all surprised?” he asked sarcastically, adding, “I’m the f**king singing rapper. I started this shit! You’re getting bodied by a singing n**ga,” before being joined by Lil Mo and Vita for their classic 2000 collaboration, “Put It On Me.”
Lil Mo would also return later during the concert to perform “We Cry,” her other hit collaboration from Rule’s multi-platinum album, Rule 3:36, bringing their creative chemistry full circle, 20 years later.
3. Nelly And Ashanti Playing Opposite Sides
One of the best strategic plays of the evening occurred when Nelly made a guest appearance, hitting the stage alongside Joe for their 2005 collaboration, “Get It Poppin’,” one of Crack’s biggest Billboard smashes of his career.
However, after Nelly brought the crowd out of their seats with a performance of his chart-topping summer classic, “Hot In Herre,” Rule pulled a trick from out of his sleeve in the form of R&B star Ashanti—who just so happens to be Nelly’s ex-girlfriend—to perform their 2002 duet “Mesmerize.”
Not to be out-schemed, the Don Cartagena jokingly claimed that he had to beg Ashanti to even show up to perform with her former labelmate before the trio did a joint performance of Joe’s own Ashanti-assisted single, “What’s Luv,” which also includes adlibs from Rule himself.
Capping off her extended cameo with another Ja collaboration, “Always On Time,” Ashanti may have played both sides of the fence during this go-round, but it was all in good nature and resulted in a memorable moment.
4. Fat Joe Getting In The Spirit Of Giving
As an artist, CEO, and now, as a media host and personality, Fat Joe has collected numerous designer bags over the years. Last night, he was more concerned with giving them out as he used the special occasion to show appreciation to his close friends and collaborators Remy Ma and Ashanti, whom he credits with proving their love and loyalty to him over the past two decades.
“I got my sisters out here,” the “All The Way Up” rapper told the pair. “I wanna let y’all know that I appreciate [the] both of you. Y’all been holding me down for so many years and I love y’all so much that I wanna give y’all something because y’all deserve it.”
Gifting Ashanti and Remy a Birkin Bag apiece, Joe then tore into a performance of “Lean Back,” he and Remy Ma’s breakout hit, sending the Garden into a frenzy.
5. New York Being Treated To A Reunion For The Ages
Playful digs and disses aside, Fat Joe and Ja Rule are friends beyond the music, having built a bond with one another that has lasted more than two decades.
One key moment in their respective careers that united them like no other was when Joe hopped on Rule’s 2004 single, “New York,” a street anthem that doubled as a rallying cry for the five boroughs and its surrounding areas.
Being that their Verzuz battle was taking place in The Big Apple, it was only right for the pair to close out their show on a high note with the song, which also symbolized their brotherhood as two of New York’s finest. Joined by Jadakiss, the trio gave fans in the crowd and those watching from home exactly what we all wanted and needed: Classic hip-hop.