If Drake Has a Ghostwriter, Does It Matter?

In the 2015 version of the music industry, does it matter if a rapper gets help writing their rhymes?
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In the 2015 version of the music industry, does it matter if a rapper gets help writing their rhymes?

[Art by vitostone]

I woke up this morning to a world where Drake has a ghostwriter. Meek Mill unveiled this information to the internet in a rant that should be read in his loud, booming voice. It feels like such an unveiling should be enormous, television shows should be interrupted with this breaking news, the streets should be on fire by an angry mob, the President should be preparing a speech, but none of this occurred. The internet did what it has done since the beginning of the Smartphones Age, exploded into a frenzy of hashtags, debates, and memes. Still, it didn’t feel like a massive exposure. The same way an intoxicated Amber Rose shaded Kanye by insinuating that Travi$ Scott writes his music, a bold statement that was only worth a day of discussing. Drake might have a ghostwriter and it doesn’t matter.

I use to care, the thought that a rapper didn’t rap his rhymes was like being told as a child that Santa Claus didn’t exist. Chuck Inglish made this analogy on Twitter, it perfectly portraits the emotional severity of uncovering such information. Especially if it was a rapper you held dear. Rappers are supposed to be authentic, writing what they live and living what they write. We look up to the rappers that bleed their circumstances, their truth is what we latch on, what we connect to.

I recently wrote about the book, The Alchemist. An alchemist is an advanced chemist that has mastered magic and is able to turn lead into gold. Rappers aren’t much different from alchemists. They create magic in recording booths, breathing their truth into the microphone and trying to sell it to millions. Lawyers, mechanics, police officers, politicians, these are people we accept as liars. Not rappers, to lie is to commit an act of taboo. Having a ghostwriter is no different than being a liar.

This is what I believed when I was young and said things like, “real hip-hop.” Now, what I enjoy about hip-hop isn’t attached to authenticity. I learned this when I wrote about Travi$ Scott a few months ago. He was known as the kid with impressive production, even if his rapping was sub-par, I couldn’t deny that he could make a magical foundation for his sub-par raps. Then I discovered he employed various producers to assist him. I was ready to denounce his entire existence that being a true producer was to sit in a room alone and make 10 beats a day for three summers. Except, I’m realizing that we are in an age of collaborations. Just look at how many producers Kendrick utilized for TPAB. Look at how many writers are credited on Kanye’s albums? My favorite drinking game is to play Yeezus and take a shot for every line Cyhi the Prynce wrote. It’s easy to get caught up in attaching ourselves to the artist but it’s the music that matters, not credits. I find it funny that ghostwriters are even added to the credit list. They are supposed to be “ghost” paid for their services and their silence. It’s just another music industry façade that shouldn’t matter.

I’m chasing a feeling, I want the music to leap out of my speakers and grab me by the neck, send chills down my spine, and deliver a jolt of inspiration. Back in the day, rock albums would have cover songs from other artists. Jimi Hendrix covered Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan did an entire album of Frank Sinatra covers, it didn’t matter if they wrote the song, but if they could interject their personalities into the music. I see ghostwriting in the same light. If Drake has a ghostwriter, the music isn’t changed. I could rap those very lyrics and there wouldn’t be any result. I can mimic his words but not his charisma and style. The Blackberry curve that he lost, the one that held his best verses, would mean nothing in the hands of someone that couldn’t bring those songs to life. Meek’s statement about removing Drake off his album if he knew someone else wrote the lyrics is hilarious. Why does it matter? Remove Drake from “R.I.C.O” and the song loses a touch of magic.

Imagine if we discovered that Jay actually wrote his lyrics down completely killing the myth that he raps without a pen and pad. Would that ruin Jay? Does the Beehive care that Beyonce didn’t write the very anthems they treat like commandments from a higher being? I still have trouble accepting “Irreplaceable” was written by Ne-Yo. It doesn’t matter. The music is what matters. When the music stops having results, ceases to have impact, and fails to make us feel, then it’s time to wave the white flag.

OG Maco’s view on the situation was interesting. Drake is someone that considers himself the best in the game, yet, how can you be number one when there’s a room full of people assisting you? He makes a good point. Rap is a competitive industry, the artists involved want to be considered titans that are better than their competitors. Yet, I don’t believe in this concept of “best” rapper. There’s timeless rappers, popular rappers, great rappers, and then the bad. There’s always someone who is better, more skilled, even if they aren’t receiving the attention. If being the best mattered, Elzhi would be swimming in a lake of wealth. I think current rap fans should want the best music and if Drake is creating that with outside assistance, I’m not mad. I felt the same when Drake stole Big Sean’s flow, he has always been the kind of rapper that didn’t do it first but did it best.

Quentin Miller is credited on 5 of the 17 songs from If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. He is the young, 'ghost writer' that Meek Mill mentions during his rampage. He’s a rapper that has some pretty good tunes on Soundcloud. It’s interesting that in a time where everyone wants to be seen, he played his role in the background this entire time. He’s a rapper assisting one of the biggest rappers of our age and now his situation has been aired out like dirty drawls on laundry day. What happens to him now? Does he drop a mixtape and blow up? Will Drake continue to work with him? Will Meek reach out for a feature on his next album? I’m intrigued by how (or if) his life will change.

Overall, this situation has birthed a few funny jokes and too much discussion. This isn’t the 90’s, the truth is rappers aren’t these beings that live every word they rap. We are in the age of entertainment. Stories are embellished, personas are created, and they aren’t delivering their rhymes with a hand to God and the other on a bible. You can strain yourself wondering about who is real and who is fake, or enjoy the music as an art form. I prefer the latter, I’m a faux-adult accepting that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.

[By Yoh, aka If You’re Reading This It’s Too Yoh, aka @Yoh31]