Nearly two years since the last Verzuz battle, R&B and hip-hop impresarios Timbaland and Swizz Beatz have signed a distribution deal to relaunch the streaming battle series on X.

The Verzuz co-founders, who maintain ownership of the platform, will stream future Verzuz events on X for free, they announced Wednesday along with X owner and Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk. The trio made the announcement during the Cannes Lions conference in France, posting several celebratory images from a yacht to mark the occasion, as well as the Juneteenth holiday.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone!!!” Timbaland and Swizz Beatz wrote in a joint post on X and Instagram, the latter of which is where the streaming series debuted in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Verzuz is back and 100% Black-owned again,” the pair said in the post, noting: “We will also be building new entertainment businesses on the X platform!! … Never give up on you dreams or your company 🤲🏾 Happy Juneteenth.”

Earlier this year, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland reacquired Verzuz from their previous partner, Triller, which took over in 2021. The producers had sued the L.A. entertainment company for breach of contract, then, in 2022, settled one of several lawsuits with Triller over allegations that the company owed money to them and business partners.

The Grammy-winning music producers described their new independent distribution deal with X as a “mutually beneficial alliance.” Swizz Beatz and Timbaland are said to maintain full ownership and creative control over Verzuz, while also retaining their equity (along with the artists who participated in Verzuz). X will receive exclusive distribution rights, said the announcement, according to Variety and the Associated Press.

The company estimates it can now expand its viewership and international reach by broadcasting to an audience of more than 550 million active users, Variety said. X has has more than 300 million monthly active users.

“We are beyond thrilled to have found the best partner for Verzuz,” Swizz Beatz said in a statement. “Not only are we excited to have Verzuz on X, we’re excited to help X build the biggest entertainment company in the world,”

Swizz Beatz also thanked Musk and the X team “for believing in the Verzuz vision. We can’t wait to get to work.”

Calling X “the most innovative platform globally,” Timbaland said that his and Swizz Beatz’s goal had “always been to bring Verzuz to the world, which we can now do bigger than ever.”

The last Verzuz battle pitted R&B crooner Omarion against Mario on June 23, 2022. The web series launched in March 2020 with a showdown between creators Timbaland and Swizz Beatz.

Verzuz has since featured lyrical throwdowns between late rapper DMX and Snoop Dogg, Ludacris and Nelly, and has expanded beyond the hip-hop genre. Other good-natured face-offs have worked to settle feuds or team up old rivals. The battles, which began on Instagram Live and have evolved into in-person battles in front of audiences, have featured Brandy and Monica, SWV and Xscape, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, 112 and Jagged Edge, Bobby Brown and Keith Sweat, as well as a memorable Juneteenth piano duel between Alicia Keys and John Legend.

The Musk-owned tech company has been pursuing original programming on the social-media platform as of late, announcing in January that it had made content deals with former CNN anchor Don Lemon, former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and former Fox Sports host and sports radio personality Jim Rome. However, in March, Musk pulled the plug on “The Don Lemon Show” before it even debuted after Lemon and the mercurial billionaire butted heads during their interview.

X Chief Executive Linda Yaccarino said in a statement that “X is so proud to partner with trailblazing creators, artists, and entrepreneurs” Swizz Beatz and Timbaland.

“Our platform stands at the forefront of innovation, and Verzuz defines the essence of an innovative content experience,” Yaccarino said. “As we continue to work with the most exciting voices to bring premium content to X, there is no better fit than this series. Together we will redefine how consumers engage with their favorite entertainment, one Verzuz at a time.”

Wednesday’s announcement, however, was met with skepticism by a number of fans, who took to X as well as the comments section of the Instagram announcement to shade the parties involved for “this lame sellout energy.”

“Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh WHO’S GONNA TELL THEM???” wrote Food Network personality Sunny Anderson.

“Fire your marketing team. Announcing partnering with Elon on Juneteenth?🙄” another user wrote.

“Welp, it was fun during the pandemic. Cherish those memories, I guess🤷🏾‍♂️” added WGN reporter Glenn Marshall Jr.

“Announcing your partnership with Apartheid Baby on Juneteenth isn’t a flex,” another user wrote, “And on a boat at that 😩🤦🏾”

“Meaning, Verzuz is still Black owned but in order for Black people to watch, we all have to flock to a platform we’re being racially targeted on. I can see the racism in the comments now 🤦🏾‍♀️” another wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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