Nevermind Drake….Is There ‘Ghostwriting’ in CHH?!!!
As it stands in 2015, the idea of a self-proclaimed lyricist actually
writing every lyric of his rap is rapidly becoming a lost art…
Or is it the next step in hip-hop’s evolution?
I guess it depends on you ask.
Consider this though….
When I released ‘Radical Thinking 2819’ in the late Falk of 2014, I
wrote every lyric that I rapped on that recording, including the choruses.
Not only that, I also wrote certain parts on that record that were
performed by some of the guest artists. For example:
All the parts that DAVETVnHD sang on “SILENCER”?
I wrote that.
All the parts that Edrige Belfort sang on “PLATFORM SHOES”?
I wrote that too.
All the parts that my girlfriend & vocalist Octavia Nickle sang on “LOVELIFE CONFESSIONAL: I JUST WANT YOU”?
Yep, wrote that as well.
So again, besides the verses
rapped by R.Q. Tek, Gauge & Mars Era
(which were written by them), I wrote every song on “2819’ and those
songs incorporated everything from futuristic East Coast hip-hop to
alternative metal. In short, I’m not only an emcee, but I’m a lyricist
& a songwriter as well, and with that being the case, you’d be hard
pressed to link my work over the past decade with
anything close to a ‘ghostwriter’. There are no reference tracks that
exist for any song I’ve released that wasn’t done by myself, and there
is no one resembling a ‘Quentin Miller’ who proved themselves to be an
integral part of my musical career.
But, as proven with the
recent allegations leveled against rap superstar Drake involving his
true authorship of certain songs on Big Sean’s, Meek Mill’s & even
his own album, not only is ‘ghostwriting’ in the discography of esteemed
very much a reality, it’s also becoming increasingly commonplace in the
music industry as whole, and that may possibly include the genre of Christian Hip-Hop.
….and truth be told, that may have been the case for a while
(Above is PART 1 of the ‘CRWN’ interview that Canadian rapper DRAKE did
with music journalist Elliott Wilson where he discusses (among other
things) writing his own lyrics, starting at around the 13 minute mark)
word got out that multi-platinum rapper & OVO/Young Money recording
artist DRAKE possibly employed ghostwriters to write some of his
biggest hits, I was somewhat shocked, after all, the MC born Aubrey
Graham often proclaimed that he was one of the best mainstream lyricists
doing it & one who made it a point to not waste any bar that he
wrote. Of course, the best lyricists obviously write their own
Well, apparently not.
Maybach Music Group artist Meek Mill pretty much ‘ratted him
out’ on TWITTER based on guest appearance on his album that Drake
allegedly didn’t write himself, the hip-hop world was stunned to
discover not one, but at least 4 reference tracks with lyrics of some of
Mr. Graham’s biggest hits that were put together by someone else, a
relatively unknown rapper by the name of Quentin Miller.
But then the oddest thing happened….
of the disgust showed by staunch hip-hop purists & a near
diabolical campaign on radio & social media by legendary NYC DJ
Funkmaster Flex to completely discredit the Canadian rapper & every
hit record he’s been pretty much responsible for, the majority of
listening public didn’t seem to care that much about who wrote Drake’s
verses/songs as long the music continued to be good. To further the
point about the mainstream audience’s indifference about the
ghostwriting allegations, Meek Mill engaged Drake in a ‘rap battle on
wax’ which he ultimately lost in tremendous & excruciating fashion
after ‘Drizzy’ dropped two records (‘Charged Up’ & the lethal but
irresistibly quotable & catchy ‘Back To Back’) that threatened to
end Meek’s successful ‘street-rap’ ascendancy in less than a week.
in 2015, we live in an era where a rapper could be considered
as one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time with the assistance
of a ghostwriter or a principle songwriter on his payroll, and he may or
not have to write the majority of his lyrical content.
Now the question is this: Does the same rule apply to ‘Christian Hip-Hop’ artists, if it hasn’t already?
To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if it does. But is that a bad thing?
good friend & producer Roberto Torres was the one who first
suggested the above theory, and I scoffed at the idea of that practice
in ‘CHH’ being even remotely true. Then I remembered famed Christian
emcee/vocalist Natalie Lauren’s featured article: http://www.rapzilla.com/rz/features/10024-christian-songwriter-natalie-lauren-maneuvers-working-for-iggy-azalea-lecrae
detailing her experience writing for Aussie rapper/pop star Iggy
Azalea, and then thought to myself: “If she’s written for IGGY, who’s to
say she hasn’t written for Lecrae, Trip Lee or any other CHH star in
If you’re a CHH fan, the fact that I
could be theorizing that
other people could’ve written for Lecrae e.g. must sound completely
ridiculous and borderline ‘blasphemous’ or slanderous. Trust me, I
totally understand, I totally get it. I’d feel the same way if someone
told me that JGivens, Eshon Burgundy, Ruslan or Corey Red didn’t write
most, if not all of their lyrics. However, in the current musical
climate that we’re forced to exist in, there could be truth to those
seemingly far fetched possibilities I just mentioned….
And the biggest argument for it is the idea of collaboration.
I posted about the idea of ghostwriting in Christian
hip-hop on my personal Facebook page & my status received varied
& passionate responses across the board. Many (mostly emcees
themselves) vehemently rallied against the idea of ghostwriters/multiple
songwriters in CHH, but one Christian artist in particular was not only
adamant about supporting the idea (since it’s already been adopted by
other musical genres) but was very vocal about the realities of the
creative process that come with it…
been around too much in this game to “believe” in authenticity of a
mainstream artist. I’ve seen too much. These labels don’t invest what
they do for people to
run around and do what they want. They are in control and its the same
with their songs. The A&R walks in and tells you what you’re doing,
who’s writing what and you’re lucky if you get to change a single word.
The majority of rappers with control of what they do or make a big stink
about don’t make it mainstream. It’s like reality TV… People keep
thinking what they see is real and not paying attention to the fact that
people are already mic’d up and a camera is already in the home of a
person getting a “surprise” visit. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Any
“mainstream” artist that didn’t fund their on way to the top was made
mainstream by the label pulling a bunch of pieces together to make they
what we love. I not love them because we find out how they were made is
an ignorance on our end (rightfully so though because it’s how the game
keeps artists looking untouchable) it’s why half the people with their
opinions about ghost writing will never make it mainstream because they
will be “sensitive” artists “offended” by the thought of compromising
their “authenticity” but wonder why the next dude made it. I learned all
of this a long time ago when I left the industry. From being Chris
Brown’s driver, working at Def Jam, writing sessions and even touring
myself along side greats like Erick sermon and Pharoahe monarch as an
example and I had to rap someone else’s lyrics. Could I write and rap
myself? Yes but in order for me to get the jobs that people have praised
me for (placements in old navy, KIA MOTORS’ commercials, Disney
movies…) I had to be willing to rap someone else’s lyrics because they
were the ones with the deal, with the opportunity and that’s what it’s
like out there the majority of the time. NOW things have HEAVILY changes
as I’ve been out the game since 2006 and the Internet / social media
has made it possible to succeed authentically BUT unless you have
millions of viewers or followers on your own expect the person investing
thousands/millions (for mainstream) status to tell you what to do and
how it will be done and if you don’t like it the next emcee is waiting
for that opportunity….I
just don’t understand why this concept doesn’t apply to all gospel
artist? To get extra holy and say a rapper couldn’t rap about what they
see, hear and it had to specifically be their own testimony or they are
fake is kind of a long shot to me. Then
neither should gospel singers. Plenty of your favorite gospel singer
have had songs written for them only because the gift they had would
bring it to life, not because it was their story. But we accept them.
I’m not saying anyone should lie. But even a rapper should have the
opportunity to share someone else’s story and because the performing
arts in essence is story telling if they tell the story well it serves
it’s purpose. And that’s the point to me. It doesn’t make you a fake….
Again my opinion” – Brooke Lugo Smith (Christian pop vocalist, rapper & reality TV star)
made some very key points. In a lot of cases, most artists enter a
recording session with multiple musicians & creatives that
often include additional songwriters, and if the principal
vocalist/writer finds him or herself stuck on a word, a line or a whole
concept, lines & idea will be exchanged to faster produce the best
record or album and all parties involved will be credited (or not,
depending on their agreement) based on the final product. Sometimes
complete songs are given to the artists who are then convinced to take
them without opposition based on their contractual obligations. In the
past, we’ve heard about Lupe Fiasco rejecting songs like “Nothing On
& “Airplanes” that ended becoming massive pop hits for Atlanta
rapper B.O.B. & we’ve seen Kanye West not only come up with the
production for JAY Z’S “Lucifer”, but the chorus for it as well (watch
the movie ‘Fade To Black’ for proof). In both cases, those scenarios are
usually acceptable as long as the rapper is composing the lyrics for
verses at the very least, but as Brooke suggested, what if an emcee got
other songs from other emcees? Does it matter if the rapper didn’t write
the song(s) as long as he/she executed it well in the booth and on
stage to the point that it’s a hit record? Does it matter if the artist
didn’t create the actual song but it still glorified God? Logically, it
makes a lot of sense if we’re talking music industry or ministerial
‘bottom lines’, but hip-hop is still a very unique genre where the
lyrical composition of the music you perform is an essential part of
your greatness & authentication. We revere NAS not just because of
his vocal performance on his seminal debut “ILLMATIC”, we also revere
the poetry he wrote on it, and same applies to everyone from RAKIM to
EMINEM to LAURYN HILL in regards to their best work in & outside of a
recording session. With that said, rappers like DR. DRE, DIDDY &
EAZY-E are hip-hop legends who were known for having ghostwriters, the
difference with them however is that their greatness centered mostly
other elements in hip-hop besides rapping (i. e. production,
performance, business savvy). So now, the question remains: Can you be
seen as one of the greatest lyricists of your generation & have
most, if not all of your material written by other co-writers? I say no.
One of the greatest rappers? Yes
One of the greatest performers? Yes
One of the greatest artists? Maybe
One of the greatest lyricists? No.
Take it from someone
who, unlike most people, is usually in the
studio with 2 to maybe 3 or 4 people (including the engineer) at the
when I’m recording music. Writing and performing your own song is a very
special & lucrative skill, monetarily & professionally.
Everybody can’t write Kendrick Lamar’s ‘The Blacker The Berry’ or
Eminem’s ‘The Monster’ or Andy Mineo’s ‘Uno Uno Seis’ or Jay Z’s ’99
Problems’ & turn them into classic album cuts, street anthems or
major hit records…& I guess that’s why there’s
ghostwriters/co-writers in the 1st place. Therefore, to say that IGGY
AZALEA is as great of an emcee/lyricist as LAURYN HILL or to say that
BIRDMAN is superior lyricist to BIG PUN would feel grossly incorrect.
Going back to Drake as an example, I personally believe that he is still
conversation of who’s recognized as the great mainstream lyricists if he
wrote most of his discography, but if he didn’t, he still will be
remembered as one of the great rappers of the 2010’s….
That assessment should probably apply to your favorite CHH lyricist or rapper as well, but that’s just me though.
Earlier this year, many CHH fans were more up in arms about the
idea of Andy Mineo having a “rap coach” than the proclaimation of his
next album bringing back East Coast hip-hop: http://www.rapzilla.com/rz/features/10678-andy-mineo-s-album-sounds-like-what-every-christian-hip-hop-album-is-missing-says-rap-coach-ray-rock,
as if music from Eshon Burgundy & Righteouz Knight didn’t already
exist. Nowadays though, what’s considered insane thinking isn’t the
thought that a self-proclaimed emcee didn’t write his/her best work….
It’s assuming that every self-proclaimed lyricist is expected to do so.
– Jason Andre Roberts (Founder of ‘I’m On That Next NEXT, Christian, Lyricist, Performance Artist & Ghostwriter for hire.)