As you are almost certainly aware, the Internet in recent days has been taken over by this Meek Mill and Drake "beef." With everyone debating whether or not Drake does in fact have a ghostwriter, and the extent to which that affects his validity as a top-tier emcee, two camps have formed with clear, opposing viewpoints. One side has taken the position that ghostwriting is a cardinal sin, and that Drake should forever be shunned from "best rapper" discussions, while the other side is of the opinion that the situation is overblown, that Drake has been forthcoming throughout his career about the songwriting assistance he's received and that his level of artistry extends beyond his technical rapping skills.
Hip-hop has always been a genre that relies on an artist's personal thoughts and opinions being delivered through their lyrics, so it's obvious why this situation and the ensuing argument has struck a chord with fans. Is ghostwriting a big deal? If so, to what degree? The Booth's own Yoh dove into his own thoughts on the matter, but oftentimes it's nice to have an actual emcee weigh in on the situation, especially if that artist is a veteran of the game and a respected lyricist in their own right. In this case, Lupe Fiasco counts as one of the most respected of those lyricists, and the Chi-Town emcee took to Instagram to share his thoughts on the matter in a series of posts affectionately titled "The Haunting" (Get it? Ghostwriter? +1 for the pun, Lupe).
I encourage you to read the entirety of his opinion, which you can do below, but the respected wordsmith points to the fact that hip-hop is alive and thriving, evidenced by the massive conversation that Meek Mill's comments sparked. One of the biggest measurements of a rapper has always been his or her ability to actually rap, deriving respect from peers based on abilities as a lyricist. Those abilities are judged on the basis that the artist and only the artist is penning the lyrics we hear, the emotion we feel and the personal reflection that they have lived. If you want to be respected as a rapper, and preach authenticity, you will need to bring originality and your own thoughts to the table. It is pursuing a mastery of this craft that furthers the genre and allows us to "express ourselves creatively and attain a sense of liberation and self-esteem via this sacred mode of creation and communication."
That said, he mentions that "Ghostwriting, or borrowing lines, or taking suggestions from the room has always been in rap and will always be in rap. It is nothing to go crazy over or be offended about unless you are someone who postures him or herself on the importance of authenticity and tries to portray that quality to your fans or the public at large." The music industry and mainstream pop culture have brought hip-hop to the forefront of music, maybe detrimentally, as it has increased the commercial appeal and opened up the gates for artists who push the boundaries of what has traditionally been considered a "rapper." This isn't all bad, as he finds "inspiration and appreciation" from both Drake and Meek, and different artists have different viewpoints of success. That's fine, as long as credit is given where credit is due and the artist is not putting up a front that is dishonest.
He goes on to add, though, that "while mastering any format should be the pursuit of any self-respecting rapper including the commercial format it must be kept clear that it is just one of many formats and that you should strive to master all of them. The art form is kept alive and progressive in the activities of the tens of thousands of rappers around the world who are everyday trying to think of that next witty bar." To continually develop as a hip-hop artist, and continue to push the genre forward, it's important to continue to work on all aspects of being an artist, including actual rapping capability.
In the world today, where hip-hop as a culture and as a genre has expanded and redefined itself many times over, there is a place for a variety of artists with a variety of ways of doing things. At the root of it all is the ability to channel personal opinion and feelings through words, and to come up with creative ways of saying/structuring/rhyming those words. There is room for rappers who do all the work themselves, not taking a single suggestion from anyone. There is also room for rappers who rely on a team or other individuals to assist in creating the best song as that benefits all those interested in hearing the best possible piece of music/art. The important part is being forthright with fans about what portions an artist is responsible for and what portions come from outside help, and not just in terms of songwriting, but idea generation, hook-crafting and production beyond that.
[By Brendan Varan. He's just trying to argue about the morality of ghostwriting while at the same time laugh at #MeekBeLike memes. Follow him on Twitter.]