Do Some Rappers Not Write Their Own Lyrics or Songs?
Some popular rap artists use uncredited “ghostwriters”, often buying the song from the artist and claiming credit for the song themselves.
What is a Ghostwriter?
A ghostwriter is a person who writes content that is credited to another person.
Is Using Ghostwriters Common?
This practice is common in literature and all forms of recorded music, including many top 40 hits. Ghostwriting, or at least having someone else write a bands songs, used to be even more common before bands like the Beatles started popularizing the idea of bands writing their own music.
A video illustrating the fact that all music types are guilty of ghostwriting.
Often Rappers Also Don’t Make Their Own Beats
Often rappers don’t just use ghostwriters for whole songs or parts of songs and/or lyrics, but will buy the beat (music) that goes along with the song. Typically rappers also have a production team and studio musicians working with them. Anytime a person who works on a song is not credited they are a “ghostwriter”.
Don’t Pop-stars and Other Artists Do This Too?
Many top 40 artists use ghostwriters. In fact, at the start of recorded music, it was more common for songwriters to write songs for artists to record and take credit for. Actually writing and recording one’s own songs didn’t become common until around the late 60’s with singer-songwriter acts like the Beatles. The popularity of ghostwriters has ebbed and flowed over the years.
Why is This a Problem in Hip Hop?
With rap there is an expectation that the artist is expressing a personal real life experience. Although this is essentially true for all forms of music, making the issue people take with ghostwriting in rap a perception issue more than anything.
The Bottom Line on Ghostwriting in Music
The charismatic lead singer isn’t always the best musician in the band, the best musician isn’t always the most charismatic, the one who writes the music isn’t always the one who can play it well or perform it in a way that would be popular, and the lyricist isn’t always any of the aforementioned. Lets not even get started on the producers, mixing techs, mastering techs, promotions people, and… well it takes a village to make a hit record in most cases.
Like it or not, history has shown that for popular consumption, people have an easier time connecting with one person and remembering one name. Think about your favorite top 40 artist in any genre from any era. The chances they use a “ghostwriter” is very high. Very few artists do everything from production to mastering themselves. Even artists who do more than one highly skilled component of creating their own music will typically work with other artists.
To Credit or Not to Credit
The real issue here is not with using a ghostwriter. It is with taking credit for another person’s work and trying to pass it off as your own. This is common practice in music, and it is up to the individuals involved to make the call if it is right for them. A fan who doesn’t want to shatter the illusion should avoid the truth about how music is made. A fan who wants to expand their appreciation for an artist should take a close look at the amazing talent that goes on behind the scenes. You just may find your favorite artist is really the uncredited person who actually wrote the song.
A criticism of ghostwriting in rap.