In rap, ghostwriters and their uses are considered blasphemous. Yet, how is it okay for other genres to have help with songwriting? Hip-hop, what’s the deal?
To start, songwriters and ghostwriters have similar — if not the same — skill sets. Both occupations help in writing songs for other artists. Yet, as far as music is concerned, only in rap or hip hop is the latter title used.
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines ghostwriting as follows.
“To write a book or article, etc. [lyrics] for another person, so that that person can pretend it is his or her own or use it himself or herself.”
In other genres, when someone isn’t credited for a song, it’s simply the fact that they didn’t receive credit. Usually, they are placed as one of the songwriters on the specific track or album. Other genres’ artists are judged by their ability to sing and perform. They’re not labeled or defined as “lyricists,” like in rap and hip hop. So, there’s really no reason to hide writer information.
However, in the rap game, lyrical credibility is supposed to be at the artist’s very foundation. A rapper is judged on his or her originality, delivery, wordplay, etc. If it’s not coming from the artist, it’s not original, right?
It’s safe to say that the bulk of the highest-paid hip-hop acts have used ghostwriters during their career: http://t.co/y2fYguQNvX
— Forbes (@Forbes) September 23, 2015
If you listen to Kendrick Lamar, you know he recently tackled the issue of ghostwriters in the rap industry via his album, To Pimp a Butterfly. According to lyrics authority site, Genius, in “King Kunta,” the rapper states as follows.
“… I can dig rapping, but a rapper with a ghostwriter? What the f**k happened? (Oh no) I swore I wouldn’t tell, but most of you share bars like you got the bottom bunk in a two-man cell…”
So, while knowing that a ghostwriter could damage a rapper’s credibility, why do they still hire them on the low? Well, the life of a musical superstar is hectic. It may not look like it on the surface, but that’s generally because there’s a team in the background helping everything run smoothly. And unfortunately for the music artist’s reputation, that sometimes includes a ghostwriter on-staff.
Recently, MTV conducted an exclusive interview with an artist/ghostwriter. For anonymity, they named him “Aaron.” However, Aaron dropped some insight about the lifestyle and what could influence a rapper to turn to others for help.
“To be a writer is one thing, but to actually be an artist, there’s a lot of other moving parts. There’s the flow, there’s diction, there’s the look, image, brand and some artists don’t have that … It takes a lot of moving parts to be a successful artist and if you don’t have those parts and you only have a pen, then you can sell that pen to somebody else who has all the parts but no pen.”
He also breaks down the credits that appear on songs and albums. He states that, when you see several names on a song, they’re not necessarily ghostwriters or songwriters. The first name that might appear would be the artist’s name, then the producer’s name. But it gets a little more complicated.
“Let’s say there’s a Michael Jackson sample, so you might have Michael Jackson’s name there. You might have Quincy Jones’ name there, because he produced the original Michael Jackson record. So now you got so-and-so rapper, so-and-so producer, M. Jackson from the sample, [and] Q. Jones from the sample…”
Yet, there could still be another name on the credits that had nothing to do with the sample or production. And that’s when Aaron notes that people start investigating and finding out a ghostwriter was used. Obviously, not all of these writers stay in hiding.
In a recent case, Drake was accused by Meek Mill of using similar resources. Diss tracks were exchanged, and allegations were refuted.
— HipHopEarly.com (@HipHopEarly) September 22, 2015
Even presently, the two are still exchanging new words, according to USA Today. Well, actually, Drizzy may have simply shook off Meek’s attempt to start things up again, quoting “don’t worry, he’s dead already.”
Disclaimer: The following videos contain explicit language. Viewer discretion is advised.
Meek Mill doesn’t recall taking that L from Drake 😂😂😂😩 pic.twitter.com/X1W3bzumLI
— Tee. (@TeeSoPettyLike) September 29, 2015
While those accusations arose during their feud, the ghostwriters denied being that title and affirmed that Drake fully handled his own works. The key alleged ghostwriter was Quentin Miller. Yet, it’s not the first time a highly-notable lyricist’s credibility was attacked.
According to Complex, Nas came under similar scrutiny years ago when he was accused of having Jay Electronica and Stic.man write his material. As did Miller, the two artists promptly denied the claims, attributing all lyrical genius to Nas, himself.
Nevertheless, given rap music’s expectation, can the concept really be deemed a double-standard? It would be similar to a master chef, known for creating culinary masterpieces, getting his or her recipes from another cook. That’s the severity of these ghostwriting accusations. They could be career-wrecking.
What do you think about ghostwriters in the rap industry? Are you empathetic to rappers’ busy lifestyles, or do you feel they should hold true to their expectations and standards? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, below.
[Video Credits: Instagram / Twitter ; Photo Credits: Scott Olsen / Getty Images News]