Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Ghost Writing

Drake’s 2015 mixtape “If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late,” is arguably one of the most important projects when discussing the trajectory of hip hop during the 2010s. While the music on the project is considered to reflect some of the best works associated with Drake’s name, it was the controversy which surrounded the album which makes the mixtape a critical talking point in the hip hop community.

In July of 2015, months after the mixtape’s release, rapper Meek Mill accused Drake of paying ghostwriters — lyricists who would write raps for Drake and remain unnamed. While at first Meek Mill’s attacks towards Drake were considered fallacies and attempts to gain exposure and notoriety, a ghostwriter of Drake’s named Quentin Miller stepped out confirming the statements made by Meek Mill.

While many lost respect for Drake due to his apparent lack of honesty and integrity, his reputation did not falter significantly, as he is nonetheless still one of the most successful rappers in the world today. However, this scenario begs the question of whether or not Drake was justified in hiring ghostwriters and if he is only one example of a larger issue among rappers.

There are a few obvious yet principle criteria that can be used to evaluate rappers and their music, and lyricism is definitely at the forefront. A rapper’s ability to use creative wordplay, complex rhythm and vocals are critical to augment the content of their lyrics, and each of those factors are in jeopardy when somebody else writes for them.

An important distinction to make when discussing ghostwriting is its difference from using co-writers, who are credited for their work and given royalties dependent on the song or project’s success, versus using ghostwriters who generally receive an upfront payment for their work. One would think that artists would be quick to reject ghostwriters, and even co-writers, in order to preserve the integrity of the art form and also be cognizant of the fact that if rumors did spread that they did not write their own raps, their reputation would potentially be at risk.

Kendrick Lamar, who prides himself on writing all of his own lyrics, expressed a similar sentiment when speaking about his personal conflict with ghostwriting. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he stated, “I cannot call myself the best rapper if I have a ghostwriter. If you’re saying you’re a different type of artist and you don’t really care about the art form of being the rapper then so be it … But the title, it won’t be there.”

With the new wave of young rappers today, such as Lil Pump, Lil Yachty and the likes, it seems like there is a wave deviating away from poetic lyricism, and instead towards a higher value on hard hitting, catchy instrumentals. So, it will be interesting to see in the future if this shift will result in listeners being less concerned about where the lyrics come from as well.

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