October 2, 2015

Ghostwriters Pushed To The Forefront: Should It Even Matter?



Recently, our chosen genre suffered through yet another battle between two established artists.  I say "suffered" because it was all a giant waste of everyone's time, and was far too one-sided for anybody to ever take remotely seriously.  I'm speaking, of course, of Drake versus Meek Mill.

From everything that I've gathered, the constantly-shouting Meek, whose rhymes must be scribbled down in all caps, was pissed that Aubrey didn't even bother to send out a tweet or some shit advising his followers that Meek's Dreams Worth More Than Money had dropped.  This was an album that featured Drake in a guest role, so Meek felt that it was doing both men a disservice to not promote it, as though Aubrey didn't have his own shit to push.  (As much as you two may not be fans of his, you can't deny that Drake has been awfully consistent with releasing new material for the majority of his career.)  Instead of speaking to him in person, or even through a DM, Meek felt it made the most sense to call the man out on social media, accusing him of not writing his own rhymes, which, while no Canibus versus LL Cool J, isn't a bad way to kick off a beef.

And then Meek just...stopped.  He was most likely convinced to do so by his girlfriend, and Drake's labelmate, Nicki Minaj, so the only follow-up we ever received were some stray shots in interviews, along with the lame-as-fuck "Wanna Know", which shouldn't even qualify as a dis track, since Meek's so out-of-pocket that the track lacks any sort of focus.  Meanwhile, Drake unleashed two hastily-recorded (or were they?) responses, "Charged Up" and "Back To Back", and not-so-graciously accepted the victory, all without ever dropping Meek's name in song.

Drake undeniably won the battle, even though we all now know of the existence of someone named Quentin Miller (Drake's apparent ghostwriter), but we, as listeners, lost the overall war: because of Aubrey's rather large fan base, mostly made up of younger folks who most likely don't know shit about shit and are quick to put on that cape for Wheelchair Jimmy, the idea that a rapper "has" to write his or her own rhymes has been called into question.  The issue itself is nothing new: hip hop heads have only given free passes to artists who are better known for their production work than their prowess with the pen (see: Dr. Dre, Pete Rock, Puff Daddy, Kanye West), or for those whose entire appeal is more style and less substance (see: the late Ol' Dirty Bastard, for instance).  Some of your favorite rappers have even made a decent side business out of writing for others.  But for the first time in a long while, having someone ghostwrite your lyrics for you appears to be an acceptable practice.  True, other musical genres have done this shit forever: when was the last time you ever heard Diane Warren actually sing a song?   But hip hop was supposed to be one of the last refuges for the "realness", a trait that is now called into question if it's perfectly acceptable for everyone to just hire the best and most "real" dude they know to come up with some good shit.

No matter how I feel about this matter, Drake will emerge unscathed, but I want to know what you two think of the idea of ghostwriters becoming more prevalent within our chosen genre.  Are you for it or severely against it?  Does it hurt any artists you've previously been huge fans of when you discover that someone else has written their ideas for them, or do you feel, like Aubrey himself seems to, that "need[ing], sometimes, individuals to spark an idea so that I can take off running,” (according to his recent interview with FADER) only helps the writing process?  Let's talk.

-Max

26 comments:

  1. I have no problem with it, but, as with every other genre if music, I give more props to those that write their own material.
    "Keeping it real" has always needed to be taken with a grain of salt.

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  2. For me, it depends on how much work the ghostwriters are doing. If it's limited to suggestions for ideas, points of reference (as in Drake's case) and editing, there's nothing really wrong with it -- the rapper's lyrics are still (mostly) their own, & even Illmatic had Large Pro supervising Nas' lyrical process:

    http://www.complex.com/music/2012/04/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-nas-illmatic/

    The problem is when rappers who aren't producers-first/style-centric have the ghostwriters write everything on a more or less consistent basis (and not just this one time 'cause you're really, really, high). Don Cartagena is otherwise a really good album, but it takes a major hit when you realize that Pun & Triple Seis ghostwrote a majority, if not all of, Fat Joe's verses, and this probably helped in an erasure of goodwill that's' gotten to the point of denying that he's EVER been any good, much like Joel Schumacher. . In those cases, it cheapens the rapper's status as an artist, especially regarding sincerity, and raises the question of why the hell they're not putting the ghostwriter on as a star -- actually and hilariously inverted in this case, but whatever. (That said, I don't believe Joey's written absolutely nothing from '98 to '08, so the success or failure of his later albums is all on him).

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  3. Honestly, hip hop beef is dumb now. These artists are off the charts soft compared to the 90's and I don't think hearing Drake's nasally whining vs Meek's I JUST SAY WORDS REAL LOUD sounds at all appealing.

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    1. I agree that most rap beef these days is weak at best, but that ultimately wasn't the point of what I wrote.

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  4. It's a struggle for me to accept that it happens at all, but I think one should rise to the admission if they're going to embrace this practice.

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  5. Ghostwriting is essential in the music industry as a whole. Even Eminem's biggest songs have co-writers (though, they are credited in the liner notes). However, hiring someone to write entire songs for you is disingenuous and I'd definitely stop listening to an artist or group if I found out the ideas they rapped or sang about weren't even partially theirs.

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  6. If you call yourself an emcee you can't have ghostwriters man. Meek Mill been jealous of Drake though, that's why he felt the need to call him out and it backfired. The ONLY part I found intriguing about 'Wanna Know' was not a single bar - but an ad-lib where he calls Drake a 'Milli Vanilli ass nigga'

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  7. Throwing ideas around is fine, I know Kanye is fairly gracious with his writing and producing credits (though he has had entire verses written for him), but I think having entire songs written for you hurts your credibility as a rapper. Hip Hop is far and away the most braggadocios genre of music, rappers always want to claim their the best; you can't be the best rapper if you don't write the vast majority of your rhymes.

    With that said, I would feel much more upset if I found out Nas had a ghostwriter than somebody like Future or Fetty Wap, who's music is more based on melody than it is on their actual lyrics. If lyrics are the focal point of your music, then you need to be writing your own rhymes.

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    1. Cosign ^. But has Kanye really had entire verses written for him??? I wanna see the source of that info.

      Rappers that claim to be lyrical should write their lyrics, or they are lying turd nuggets.

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    2. I thought it was common knowledge that Rhymefest wrote "Jesus Walks". Or at least the majority of it. That's how Rhymefest pulled a Sauce Money by winning a Grammy before ever dropping his own album.

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  8. As others have mentioned, it depends on the rapper. Because Drake isn't a producer, and isn't a great technical "rapper", but relies more on the emotion of his songs and the writing, I think the ghostwriting is a major mark against him. Someone like Future for example (or Fetty Wap) whose success is all about delivery and not content, well I wouldn't care.

    But Drake is supposedly all about the "substance" of his lyrics and songs, regardless of what I think (meh). If he isn't actually writing them, and doesn't produce, and isn't Nas or 1996 Jay Z behind the mic (lol), then what the hell does he actually do?

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    1. You bring up a pretty good point.

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  9. I have no problem with co writers as long as there credited a la "yeezus" or ghostwriters as long as there writing for artists like Drake or big Sean guys who write hits but aren't going to be considered goats on terms of lyricism. However if it were to come out that schoolboy q wrote most if Kendricks bars if feel differently. Like when it came out that stic man and jay electronics had maybe ghostwrote for nas on his untitled album the idea if that hurt .......I mean nas .........ghostwriters??........c'mon

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  10. Since I don't give a flying fuck about neither Meek, Aubrey nor anyone who makes their type of music, I couldn't care less about who won the "war".

    As for ghostwriting, it'd take a very rare situation for me to accept ghostwriting from an individual. Example: the DOC is no longer able to record his rhymes, so Dre recorded them for him on N****z4life & The Chronic. Not on 2001, though.

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    1. You make it sound like The D.O.C. was originally slated to co-star on The Chronic, though. Besides, Dr. Dre has never claimed to be the greatest writer, so I'm okay with him doing what he does best.

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  11. Honestly, I feel if it would depend on the artist. Now, I don't mind co-writers as far as just helping an artist write something, so long as the artist wrote the majority of the song or the majority of the songs on a project. I heard that Jay Rock sometimes helps Kendrick write, but that doesn't mean Jay Rock is Kendrick's ghostwriter. Now, as far as just reciting whole songs written by somebody else? That's where it would depend on the artist. If drake had a ghostwriter all this time, it wouldn't matter cause Drake's delivery/personality/image is what sells, not necessarily what he is saying. Tyrese called it the "Drake" effect, where an artists execution of a song, is more valued then if he actually wrote the lyrics or not. An example of this would be Dr. Dre. Now, if it came out that say an Immortal Technique had a ghostwriter all this time, thats where I would have an issue, cause Technique has always been a lyricist, what Tech is saying, actually matters and has substance. He's is not selling an image, he's selling his raps, his lyrics, his message. So yeah, I think it would depend on the artist.

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    1. I, for one, would find it hilarious if Immortal Technique was outed for using a ghostwriter, mostly for the reasons you've listed.

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  12. Let me contribute to this issue too:

    Hip Hop is a genre, where the rapper has something to say. He pics up the microphone and lets it all out. This is the way somehow Hip Hop has started. A rapper is not a singer. A rapper is not showing off with his voice's attributes.

    Hip Hop began as rebel music, as street music and the rappers brought their own life experience into the writing and created rhymes, which resulted to songs. The last 15 years Hip Hop has got nothing to do with Mceein' or Lyricism. I don't want to sound bitter, but it's more Pop music performed by black guys. Therefore, it doesn't matter who writes the rhymes.

    On the other side, ghostwriting is an inevitable thing for artists who are for many many years around. I can imagine that Jay-Z hasn’t written his own rhymes for a very long time. How could he? He’s a real busy guy. The same goes to artist like… Snoop Dogg. This guy has an endless catalog of songs, released and unreleased. No way he wrote all of them by himself. I can’t imagine that inspiration lasts for that long. So, in my opinion, for artists like them, ghostwriting is kind of mandatory.

    Kool G Rap was a ghostwriter for Salt N Pepa, remember that?

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  13. My problem isn't so much with ghostwriting itself; I just don't like the mystery/dishonesty surrounding it. If Drake doesn't write his lyrics then fine, I don't care as I don't especially like him as an artist (he has hits, but I couldn't listen to more than a couple of his songs at a time). But I'd much rather him admit this than have Mill call him out, as that's what tarnishes someone's credibility if they're lying to their fans who are the people who make them as an artist, so deserve the courtesy to know the truth at least. It would be interesting to see the uncensored lyrics to Mad Skillz' 'Ghostwriter' I suppose.

    Anyway, if you don't like the thought of ghostwriting guys, give KOOL KEITH a listen. No way anyone ghostwrote any of that crazy shit, his genius/(in)sanity is too unique.

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    1. Co-sign the Kool Keith comment.

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  14. While ghostwriting is not a problem per se - it certainly is in this beige dude's case. He is convincing the masses that he is being so personal and honest, opening up himself to them, but he aint writing none of it. Getouttahere

    Doc Zeus summed my feelings up pretty good about this beef over at P.Weiss

    http://www.passionweiss.com/2015/08/03/why-it-matters-that-drake-isnt-writing-his-own-songs/

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  15. Just 2 quick notes:
    1.) first ever commercially released Rap hit ("Rapper's Delight") laready had a rapper singing someone else's lyrics.
    2.) Honesty goes a long way. See: "Ice Cube writes the rhymes, that i say" word to the late great Eazy-E.

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  16. I'm going to give the perspective from both a fan and a rapper. From the fans point of view, rap/hip-hop is both entertainment and a lifestyle and a platform for messages to get across. People usually invest in the rappers because there is some sort of ideal they identify with whether it's mainstream domination, realness, living it up or just being yourself. It's that ideal that draws us into hip-hop, immerses us and makes us forget about the troubles of the world.

    Once one dives deeper then there's a code of honor that rap as a whole has developed. Everything has to be authentic, everything has to be believable and everything has to have respect. Of course it's just the dirt of it but the code of honor is something that you either believe in or don't. It definitely applies to the whole "talent" thing that is universal in all music genres; people don't know if the songmakers have any control over what is written and what is produced and what the final product is but they enjoy it because it immerses them and ultimately they like the person. Nobody knows why people do the things they do or why they decide to be musicians but I guess the brain works in funny ways...

    Which leads to the rapper perspective, there are super talented people who spit amazing rhymes and do everything by themselves but don't get respect because as said before, people prefer music as entertainment. One of the aspects I enjoy of hip-hop fandom is who spits the rawest rhymes, who has the best production, who has the hypest concerts but it seems like the hip-hop fandom is dying out not sorely because of mainstream hip-hop but because everything has become disappointing. When releases become fewer and fewer because the newer generation is raised on predominantly-simple EDM influenced trap music and when rappers often appeal to their fanbase instead of expanding and innovating then well; it's hard to be a hip-hop fan. The familiar faces are being recognized but they're not being respected and in addition the familiar faces aren't trying hard enough to be recognized.

    When you have a beat that's very simplistic and very easy to replicate (look at the thousands of similar rap songs that sound alike to each other.); it kind of makes newer hip-hop feel like finding a diamond in the rough; especially when you can do southern scrawl and simplistic lyrics on a beat. If you can spit impressive lyrics on that sort of beat then well, you've earned the respect of hardcore hip-hop heads but the idea is this, if you can make it playable, simple to understand and alike from another then well; you get popular and I'm going to add this, the artists themselves are being apathetic to the whole fact that authenticity is important mainly because people are becoming apathetic; in the future there will be rappers who will not produce their own beats, who will not produce their own lyrics, who will not provide a good hook and well, the public won't care. It's a difficult situation, are we in the midst of a generational shift in favor of greedy cats or are we simply being non accepting of the current trends because we like older hip-hop better.

    One things for sure, people still have the ability to judge quality meaning if you put out a effort with hard work and creativity then it'll bound to be noticed; if you admire to be better, you will become better but it appears that well, we're on the way out.

    Also the quality of the two artists are questionable; thus making this rap beef disappointing as well, not because of the two radically different styles but because there's no specific rawness found. Even though Wack 2 Wack isn't as great as it's supposed to be, it feels like they're actively pissed off and won't have none of that.

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    1. I'd like to think that there are plenty of hip hop fans who think like this (even if they can't put it into words), but you're right, we're on the way out. Maybe hip hop has completed its transition into pop music status, and as we all know, most pop songs aren't written by the artist themselves, and Drake has made all of that more acceptable for today's listeners.

      At the same time, fuck that shit.

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    2. I mean hip hop has been pop for a while now.. I honestly miss the days of Southern rap dominating the airwaves. People thought that stuff was mainstream trifle, but compared to today's shit the southern music was underground.

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