Don't worry, this isn't another ghostwriter expose. I already put the nail in that particular coffin. But if I learned anything from the ghost of Quentin Miller it's that most people really don't have any idea how the music they love is made. There really does seem to be this impression that massive hits are made by an artist sitting down in the studio, by themselves, scribbling lyrics on a notepad, pouring their personal truth onto the page. I know I had that impression for a long time.
But the truth is that much of the music that soundtracks our lives is the result of massive collaborations, layer after layer of contributions by a range of artists that the headliner puts their massive cherry on top of. And that's why this interview with OVO artists/songwriters/producers Majid Jordan is so revealing.
In their recent sit down with Hot 97 the duo detail how they were brought into the OVO camp in 2013, as production on Nothing Was the Same was beginning and, immediately, they were put to work making song after song after song until finally "Hold On" caught Drake's ear.
"They basically put us in the studio, it was like a studio camp almost, there were tents in there - 'make beats, stay in the dungeon, you cannot leave. You can't tell anyone you're working on this project.' Literally tents...real tents in the vocal booths, everything. I slept in a tent in the studio. So we're making beats for a few months..."
To recap, here's how songs like "Hold On" were made. Drake had a number of artists literally making music day in and day out for months in the OVO studios. They would play what they had come up with and he would pass on almost all of it, tell them to try again. Tents were slept in. (They couldn't just get the dudes a couch?) Eventually, the songwriters and producers would hit on some magical combination that Drake felt inspired by. He would add his vocals—sometimes he would write more of those vocals himself, sometimes less—put his signature touches on it, tweak and change it as he felt along with "40," and boom, you've got yourself a top ten hit.
That's not ghostwriting.
Everyone involved is officially credited as a producer and songwriter and, hopefully, they're paid well with a share of the publishing money. There are no ghosts here. Although when it's time to shoot the video they don't even get a seat at the table. That's just the life of a songwriter and the type of factory-style music making that many of the biggest artists in music employ. Ironically, it's the same factory style a young Drake found himself working in for Dr. Dre back in the day.
What, you really think superstar artists have the time and energy to plan and execute global tours, ink huge deals with Apple Music, run a label and clothing brand and write every word and note of their songs themselves?
None of this really lessens the prestige of Drake's accomplishments, but it does further help the public understand how their favorite music is made, and who's responsible for making it, and that can only be a good thing.