In the last week, there’s been an interesting discussion across the Hip Hop community on the topic of rappers writing their own material which was started by Meek Mill accusing Drake of not writing his verse on ‘R.I.C.O’, a feature verse on Meek‘s latest album. The direction that the discussion was taken was bigger than simply just Drake.
The question now is ghostwriting that really big of a deal? Does it matter? It’s an interesting topic because it brings in many different viewpoints and perspectives into the equation. Purely as a fan, here are my thoughts into the idea of rappers having ghostwriter
I’ll begin by saying this, as a purist to any craft I do or recognise, authenticity is important to me. I like seeing people’s original perspectives and ideas of subjects in their own lives and minds come to life. There’s a magic in that to me and more so in regards to rap where the goal is to use your words to weave together stories and melodies in the listener’s heads. That’s why I will always appreciate those who manage to write and deliver all their own material.
There’s a reason I place certain artists above others. The likes of Jay Z, Nas, B.i.g on the US side and the likes of Wretch 32, Ghetts etc over here. They are LYRICISTS and most importantly, the lyrics all came from their pens, their heads and that is the reason they are all time greats in my heads.
Don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write checks – Diddy
Naturally, every artist is not cut from that same cloth and I have no problem with that. Dr Dre and Diddy notably have not wrote a lot of their music with people in the background penning their rhymes. It doesn’t make their contribution to some of the best songs of all time less relevant or noteworthy. Although obviously I cannot put them in the ‘best lyricists’ category, in the ‘song/hit making’ category, they are elite because it’s more than just “bars” when it comes to music.
Part of the reason I don’t have SO much of a problem with ghostwriters is that there’s certain things you can’t tailor beforehand. You can’t ‘write’ flow, you can’t ‘write’ delivery, or melody or style. I can have the best writers but if I don’t have the ability to deliver it I can’t make a hit song. Whether Drake does have ghost writers or not, only HE can produce the emotion in the songs so even if we put an asterisk over his ability as a ‘lyricist’, as an overall song and hit maker his talent is undeniable.
so if someone wants to be upset that drake made a great album, go for it, get mad all day lol! but don’t ever question my brothers pen.
— Noah Shebib (@OVO40) July 23, 2015
The funny thing in all this is that in almost every other genre, artists have ghost writers. Some of the best R’n’B songs of all time were written by someone else. It always shocked me hearing that Usher’s ‘Confessions’ was written by Jermaine Dupri was a surprise to me because that song felt so real like Usher was the one who wrote every single line. But in that case, hearing the song was written by someone else downplays the songs impact to me now so it really does matter.
Saying that, naturally, the feel might not be the same when I hear a rapper/artist didn’t write a song but I can’t ever disregard a song that I know is undeniable because they didn’t write it but that is merely my own view.
I’ll end by saying this; we never know all the facts when it comes to writers. Sometimes people change, edit or add lines to songs and are credited as ‘writers’ and I have no problem with that at all, sometimes it may actually enhance a song. Nor due I have problems with taking an idea for a hook or melody from someone because it may actually be a good hook or melody. My issue here, is taking whole/majorities of verses and songs that someone did and passing them off as your own. Especially as Hip Hop was built off the greats crafting original, creative rhymes, I can’t put anyone who doesn’t write majority of their raps as a All Time great as a COMPLETE artist, but only as an All Time great song maker which is a notable credit in itself.
As fans, let’s just enjoy the music anyway because above as much as me knowing who wrote it matters, how it makes me feel when I hear it is more important, since. we are actually listening to music not reading it.
Words by @TonteBoDouglas