In light of the current Drake ghostwriting allegations I stop and ask why are rappers being held to such a higher standard than other musical artist? We know the Dream has written more than 85 hits that were sung by others yet we still respect the PERFORMERS. Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye and Whitney Houston are viewed as great artist yet they all had writers. Many of rock n roll’s early hits were actually written first by Blues artist meaning that Jimi or Stone classic was written by someone else. Rappers are entertainers and performers like all the rest.
Denzel is a great actor which means he is a performer. Look closer and you come to understand in most movies actors are just reading lines written for them. They also take direction from director on how to say things and how to portray the character as it was written. News flash! This happens in rap too. Even if you wrote it, someone is likely to be in the studio giving direction. In an article written about Rick Rubin it was revealed that his hands have been touching the work of artists in every genre for years including teaching a young Cool James how to convert his lyrics into 16 bars.
From the beginning of above ground mainstream hip hop rappers have had ghostwriters. There would be no NWA or Easy-E without Ice Cube and the DOC. The DOC was there from the beginning writing and still is writing for your favorite artist. The problem is rap in many ways has never “kept it real”. There is this belief that you can’t rap it if you never lived it. Yet we still allow rappers like Jay-z to continue to speak on the streets when they moved to the Penthouse years ago. Hardly anyone rap artist is who they portray themselves to be and may need help staying in character. I would question any of gangster the things Dre spoke of in his early raps if we had to measure him on the keep it real scale. Ice Cube was college educated before his success with NWA but for some reason rappers hide their education sounding like Bunz from Belly “shorty can’t eat no books”.
I grew up reading liner notes inside albums from all genres of music. I took notice of how few had just one name credited as the writer. Another telltale sign of ghostwriter’s forever presence in hip hop is publishing credits. Yes, some do sign away their rights but once you know what the DOC or Gillie the Kids publishing is called it’s not hard to spot their work. Should this take away respect from the artist performing the song? No once again we still like Beyoncé who’s hit “Flawless’ was written by the Dream.
Now I must say there is a big difference between plagiarism and ghostwriting. This brings us back to Drake who had to pay out a few bucks for biting a whole verse from Rappin 4 Tay’s song “Players Club”. This is not acceptable in any area the arts and should not be accepted in hip hop. But we must stop believing the hype and elevating rappers to some unrealistic godlike status found in no other art form. They are just performers telling a story.
Some add to the character by way of voice tune or flare. Others have a vibe that even if they rapped the ABCs and 123s, it would go platinum. Remember, it’s just music…
(Photo Credit: Billboard.com)