Earth, Wind & Fire and Isley Brothers Face Off for ‘Verzuz’ Event

Posted March 31, 2021 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

The “mighty, mighty” sounds of the Elements will face off with the “3+3” funky sounds of the Isleys

isley-ewf-verzuzAnnounced last week, the next big event taking place on Verzuz, the Timbaland/Swizz Beats virtual platform, will be the matchup of two musical band titans from the realm of R&B. And it might be the biggest one yet: pairing Earth, Wind & Fire with the Isley Brothers.

With catalogs spanning multiple decades (the Isleys much longer with seven, dating back to the late ‘50s), the survivors of the two groups will face off on Easter Weekend.

The ‘Verzuz’ format usually allows each artist to whip up 20 of their best tracks in a match-up with their paired rival, and usually includes 1-2 minute snippets of the songs. But lately, programmers have tweaked the forum with various interpretations of those performances, including instrumental tracks with the artist performing live over the music (evidenced in the Gladys Knight vs Patti LaBelle).

To date, no artist has performed live with a full band, but that could very well change with these iconic groups. Both Earth, Wind & Fire and Isley Brothers — all inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame — have a wide variety of genres under their magical spell, including funk, pop, rock, soul and gospel. Both have also been blessed with their respectable lead vocalists enjoying fruitful solo careers — Phillip Bailey, the late Maurice White, Ron Isley and the ‘80s splinter group, Isley, Jasper, Isley.

And although Earth, Wind & Fire have a great range of reach with rock, soul and pop audiences (from “September” to “Let’s Groove”), the Isleys may have the greater advantage with the hip-hop-driven ‘Verzuz’ audience. To date, they remain one of the most highly sampled groups in rap and hip-hop. has close to 1,000 songs containing samples of their storied catalog — ranging from hits by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, 2 Pac and Kendrick Lamar. And Ron Isley, lead vocalist, earned a glorious turn-of-the-century awakening as the R.Kelly-designed “Mr. Biggs” alter ego, birthing urban soap opera hits like “Down Low (Nobody Has to Know),” “Contagious,” “Trapped in the Closet” and “Busted.”

Regardless of who gets crowned the inevitable winner by the press or what each fan base declares after the main event, the two bands will benefit greatly from the attention, generate rises in social media presence and impact streaming and physical copies of music, ultimately resulting in jumps on various Billboard charts.

The event will be hosted by Steve Harvey and will include DJ mix sets by D-Nice. It takes place Easter Sunday (April 4th) at 5 pm PDT / 8 pm EDT via the @verzuztv on Instagram and @triller app.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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