Taking place virtually amid the coronavirus pandemic, REVOLT Summit x AT&T finally arrived on Friday (Oct. 23) and will go down until Sunday (Oct. 25). Completely online for audiences to view several panels filled with insightful information given by some of the industry’s most notable creatives, the event is available to watch for free via REVOLT’s YouTube, website, Facebook, Twitch, and the official REVOLT Summit app.
“If you don’t know, the REVOLT Summit is global,” Diddy took to Instagram Thursday (Oct. 22) night, less than 24 hours before the launch of the virtual event. “We’re going to be giving out that free game to all the young entrepreneurs, artists, media makers, content creators, fashion designers. The future leaders.”
Despite not being able to come together this time around, this year’s REVOLT Summit x AT&T showcased just how much of an important influence hip hop culture can have on us during these times.
Check out the best moments that took place on day one below. See you later tonight (Oct. 24) for day two!
1. Swizz Beatz and Timbaland talking Verzuz becoming a cultural phenomenon
Kicking off day one, some our favorite producers and creatives delve into one of social media’s most widely recognized virtual events. “The Verzuz Effect” panel was moderated by Femme It Forward CEO and Live Nation partner Heather Lowery. The panel featured legendary producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland as well as game-changing industry veterans Larry Jackson, Ingrid Best, and Fadia Kader.
Originally started as a live producer clash between Timbaland and Swizz during 2018’s Hot 97 Summer Jam, Verzuz has grown into an undeniably powerful platform for Black figures in the music industry — both past and present. The IG series became an unwitting center of attention during quarantine where two legacy acts go song-for-song from their respective catalogs, discuss their backstories, and allow fans to chime in on which record had the greatest impact during its time. Ultimately, Verzuz has amassed millions of social impressions, brought tons of fans together, and skyrocketed streams for just about all artists who’ve participated thus far.
Speaking on how it all began, Swizz stated, “The idea came up a couple years ago, just wanting to celebrate creatives.” He further spoke on having plans for Verzuz pre-pandemic as well as a potential album and accompanying tour between him and Timbaland. “We were working on an album that we were going to Verzuz with each other, then we were gonna work on a tour and bring other artists in to participate... It was more of a live component than an online component, but the pandemic hit and it just changed the narrative and now we’re here.”
Talking about noticing the impact that Verzuz has as well as how he and Timbaland pick the creatives to face-off in the virtual event, Swizz continued: “We try to connect people that have the right synergy. A lot of people who throw the names out, the energy might not be there and the music might not be there. What do those people’s music sound like when you play them together? What do those people’s energy feel like when they’re in the room together? ...We pick the Verzuz based on the time that we’re in now and the energy of the people, and the energy of the creators.”
Fadia Kader, Lead of Music at Instagram, spoke on the app adjusting to mass engagement in Instagram Lives. “Our live feature was never built to be a high production value moment. It was supposed to be in the moment. I think the Verzuz experience has really challenged us to really focus on the live aspect of what Instagram does.” She continued: “We’ve had to reinforce what the backend of our structure looks like, put a little bit more priority into adding additional team members to make sure that these Verzuz are going smoothly.”
Larry Jackson, Head of Content at Apple Music, adds, “For me, they’re really all challenging. We got a lot of logistics that we’re handling on the Apple side... We have two satellite trucks that we call in for each battle. So for 2 Chainz and Rick Ross, for Fab and Jada, for Brandy and Monica, for Alicia and John, we have a back up satellite truck on the premises just in case. Down to the editorial work that we do in order to lift these artists’ catalogs on a subsequent basis.”
When asked their favorite battle thus far, Timbaland stated, “All of them, you can’t pick one. It’s hard for us to pick one Verzuz.” Swizz later added, “We got different. We’re just started, we didn’t even do our Latin versions, we didn’t do our African versions, we didn’t do our five female versions. We’re just starting as we go into season two.”
2. Jemele Hill, Bubba Wallace and more talking navigating 2020
Moderated by Emmy award-winning journalist Jemele Hill, whose work has been published across The Atlantic and ESPN, this conversation centered around the rapidly changing times. The panel was included NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace, rapper Super Duper Kyle, and social influencer Justin Laboy.
Opening up about his year, Kyle stated, “This experience and me prepping for this year to be so awesome...really taught me a lesson of letting go of expectations and ultimately, time is not in your control. It’s in God’s control and what’s going to happen has nothing to do with how much you dedicate yourself and how hard you work sometimes.” Bubba chimed in, saying, “I can’t say that none of this stuff would’ve happened with 2020, with COVID. It’s a lot of blessings that have come out of this tragic pandemic.”
Much of the conversation was about adapting to this new lifestyle, using their social platforms to spread awareness, and mental health amongst, other things. Uncertain when things will return to “normal,’ Jemele asked Bubba about some of the permanent changes.
“To help prolong this once a vaccine does come out and stay on top of things, let’s be more careful and properly distance ourselves,” Bubba points out. “All the things you need to do right now, we still will need to do, hopefully without the masks.”
Kyle hops in and gives his thoughts on how it will change the music industry. “Things that really used to push an artist’s career like mine was meet and greet, where I feel like I really get to tap in one-on-one with my supporters. I feel like it’s my top 1 percent of supporters that keep my career afloat and those are the people that really want that access with you, and they probably won’t get that access for a long time,” He continued, “We’re probably not going to do meet and greets, big raging festivals with 2 million people, those things probably won’t happen for a couple of years.”
When discussing using their platforms in the best ways, Kyle added, “I’m out here tryna educate myself as well and through that I’m tryna somehow educate the people who are listening and looking up to me.”
“I just want people to know you’re not weak for being able to express how you feel. That’s just something in the community, especially in the Black male community... [we don’t like] sharing our feelings until it builds up and builds up until we just break down,” Laboy said on mental health during these times. Jemele drove the point straight home: “Check on your strong friends.”
3. Busta Rhymes and T.I. discussing career longevity and remaining relevant in rap
The “Using Creativity To Shatter Tradition” discussion fostered nothing but positivity between rap legends T.I. and Busta Rhymes. Upon the initial minutes of interaction, the two traded kind words about each other’s careers while reminiscing on old memories.
During their conversation, the two artists and entrepreneurs discussed pushing through the low moments of their careers. “I would pull up to these certain studios that artists that I know had records out and would be putting out records real soon [would be in]. I used and leveraged the buzz that I had from ‘Scenario’ and ‘Scenario (Remix),’” Busta told T.I. about his incredible feature run. “At the time, my buzz and my wave was so incredible just as far as being the first to pioneer the feature, rhyming on everyone else’s record. I took advantage of that by going by these studios and just popping up in someone’s studios unannounced.”
Mid-way through their conversation, T.I. discussed studying those that came before him as well as what was garnering the most attention at the time. “You had things like your ‘MTV Raps,’ ‘Rap City,’ and stuff like that, that tells you this is what people are saying is dope. Okay, well let me listen to them. Why is they so dope? And then, I tried to start to write stuff. If it was something that I wouldn’t want to listen to, then I wouldn’t want to write it,” he said.
Speaking on creating content that will live forever, Busta stated: “I don’t try to fix what ain’t broke. I just evolve by adding some floors to the same skyscraper that’s been standing on that same solid foundation that I’ve been always able to do this amazing sh*t from.” The New York emcee later added, “The people that started with you at that foundation can still love and appreciate what you’re doing even if it’s some sh*t that feels a little more current than the sh*t that you was doing when they started with you because you never abandoned the foundation that made them know and love you.”
T.I closed out conversation with considerably some of the best advice on day one of the REVOLT Summit x AT&T. He said, “Believe in yourself enough to have a vision. See yourself where you hope to go. If you don’t have a vision for yourself, somebody is just gonna find a way to fit you in theirs.”
4. 2 Chainz and Bryan Barber on creating “Money Maker” and honoring HBCUs
Released back in August, 2 Chainz released the music video for “Money Maker” and it almost instantly became praised by HBCUs, amassing about 3 million YouTube views since release. “The energy behind this song was definitely to celebrate Black colleges and universities,” 2 Chainz said during his REVOLT Summit x AT&T masterclass. The video, which features Lil Wayne, celebrates marching bands and was dedicated to historically Black colleges and universities as well as all the magic that happens during those half-time shows. “Money Maker” was shot by Bryan Barber and includes a cameo from Southern University’s Human Jukebox.
Speaking on the idea behind “Money Maker,” 2 Chainz stated, “It was an idea that I got in high school attending schools that had a heavy band culture. Like halftime football games were a thing in high school, then I go to a black school and it’s an even bigger culture.” He continued talking about meeting Louisiana producer Playa Pizzle, who sampled Guy’s easily recognizable 1998 record “Piece of My Love.” He went on: “He started playing all these beats that had nothing to do with the band. So, by the tenth beat, I told him, ‘I’m not tryna be funny, I can go to different producers for that. I need something that sounds like halftime.’ And when I heard the ‘Piece of Love’ sample, I was thinking like people have sampled songs, but they never sampled the sample that people use.”
“With ‘Money Maker,’ it was a celebration of Black excellence and a lot of people participated in the video, so it was a lot of different elements that played a part. We literally could make a thirty-minute [video] with all the footage that we got that would be entertaining,” 2 Chainz added. Barber later chimed in by saying, “We had so much footage before we even started the shooting, we was like, ‘How we gonna put all this out?’ But what I really love about the video and also the footage we got is you really get this Black love, Black community, and this culture that we have within America that can’t be replicated. It’s real true authentic Blackness.”
The video director further spoke about the impact of HBCUs: “You can come from the street, you can come from an affluent family, and the HBCUs bring you into one where you’re actually meeting people from different places.”
Barber and 2 Chainz closed the masterclass by talking about owning your brand and the importance of voting. “It’s extremely important to have a Black-owned production company — and truly Black-owned... Now’s the time not only for Black-owned production companies, but Black artists and celebrities to support those companies,” Barber said. Chainz stated: “More people registered to vote this year than ever. You can see the energy, this is the biggest year, the biggest turn out.”
5. The much-anticipated “Be Heard” finale, hosted by Ne-Yo
REVOLT Summit x AT&T’s own “Be Heard” finale was arguably one of the most anticipated events of the day. Hosted by Ne-Yo, the music competition kicked off in mid-September where aspiring singers and rappers submitted three-minute clips of covers or original music. Only 25 contestants were picked by a small group of industry professionals in the semi-finals, and competed against each other each week leading up today’s finale.
Originally for five finalists, “Be Heard” saw six contestants fighting for bragging rights and a $10,000 prize: Alicia Webster, LG, Gabe, Myles Yachts, Lono Bristol, Malaya.
Ultimately, the winner was Myles, who also walked away with a single deal with Dallas Austin’s label, Rowdy Records, and the chance to have his music video featured on REVOLT’s “Untapped” show.
6. Tyga and Dre London on what it takes to become a millionaire
Thriving as a multi-talented entrepreneur and artist for over a decade, Tyga has picked up many tips and tricks over the course of his praiseworthy career. During the final workshop of day one, the West Coast rapper and his manager, Dre London, talked about what it takes to be successful as well as some of the strategic moves that helped make Tyga a millionaire throughout the process.
First things first, having the right team is essential to having longevity in any industry. “Without having the right team behind you, you actually have no plan of going anywhere because who’s going to sustainably lead you while you’re working and point you in the right direction, Dre said. Tyga later added his two cents, “You definitely need to have people around that also care about your well being, too. Obviously, yeah, it is a business. But, it’s good to have people around that actually care.”
Amongst various other topics, Dre and Tyga delved into what to look for in a manager and what specifically makes a good team. Giving his top five characteristics, Dre lists “hunger, consistency, respect, drive, and being smart.” As expected, Tyga agreed with Dre, naming some of his top traits by saying, “Somebody that’s there to get in the mud with you, you need somebody that’s not afraid to take risks. You need somebody...whether it’s a good vision or good eye or a good ear.”
Over the years, Tyga has accumulated numerous business ventures that undeniably helped mold him into the household name that he is today. From films to music, the public figure puts a major emphasis on being dedicated. “When you want to expand your brand beyond music, you have to look at the most obvious things like what are you into? ...It has to be things that you’re really interested in because you can do things and get paid or a check, but that might not be your best work. You just kinda wasted a lot of time in your life that you could’ve put towards something else,” he said.
Bringing their workshop to a close, the pair took a much-needed minute to admire the work that they’ve done for each other over the years. When asked to sum one another up in one word, Dre labeled Tyga as “resilient.” Tyga, on the other hand, labeled Dre as a “visionary” and honestly, there couldn’t have been a better answer.