Bishop T.D. Jakes will open with a few words before the battle begins at 5 p.m. ET, according to the Verzuz TV Instagram account. Singing in the background of the announcement was 12-year-old sensation Keedron Bryant, who voiced his will and right to live as a young black man in America with a beautiful acapella rendition of his original song, “I Just Want to Live,” which garnered the attention from Katy Perry, LeBron James and Franklin.
“I’m a young black man/ Doing all that I can/ To stand, oh but when I look around/ And I see what’s being done to my kind/ Every day, I’m being hunted as prey/ My people don’t want no trouble/ We’ve had enough struggle/ I just want to live/ God protect me/ I just want to live/ I just want to live,” he sings in the original clip posted on his Instagram Wednesday (May 27) as well as in the Verzuz social media ad.
Franklin surprised Bryant and his family Thursday (May 28) after the song went viral in an exclusive Access video. “This song, his voice, this moment, this is incredible,” the 50-year-old sensation exclaimed to him and his mother Johnnetta, who wrote “I Just Want To Live.” “To see the next generation like your beautiful self… to be able to see young men like Keedron just be able to stand in the midst of all this pain and tragedy, and to be able to have such a sound of hope, we needed you. We needed you. You are right on time.”
Franklin told the 12-year-old singer that he and Hammond will give Bryant a special shoutout in the Verzuz battle scheduled for this weekend. But one Instagram user rebuked the idea that the musical showdown could bring healing, commenting, “No disrespect but we won’t be healed until those 4 murders are off the street…. I will watched but healing begins when the change starts happening.” Mega producer and Verzuz battle co-creator Swizz Beatz replied, “we all feel the same.”
Tune into Kirk Franklin and Fred Hammond’s Verzuz battle here, and check out the ad featuring Bryant’s inspirational backing vocals below.