There was a time when rappers could straddle the dual roles of writer and rapper. That day went the way of typewriters, Kodak cameras and dinosaurs. These each had a single thing that brought about their demise. It was the advent of something better, not keeping up with the shift and well, extinction. Today, a rapper without a ghostwriter will have all three working to move him or her out of relevance. Let’s look at why a ghostwriter in the pocket is critical for rappers who want to authentically express themselves today.
For starters, ghostwriters have top tier vocabulary. They typically have major wordsmithing skills. They can use imagery, figurative languages and highly engaging terms. In all likelihood, they keep up with new terms and phrases, and have a firm grasp of punchlines, metaphors, analogies and similes.
Ghostwriters use resources. They keep a Thesaurus handy for finding synonyms. This gives them the fluidity to match and mix together the right words, in the right sequence. They probably keep an urban dictionary handy. This can include the printed version or online versions. Since rap has urban origins, this is especially essential.
Rhyme, repetition and resonance are extremely important when done correctly. Many ghostwriters have experience writing poetry. Along with that, they probably have recited their own poems or spit their own rhymes. That experience equips them with the skills to give you a healthy balance of rhyme that conveys the intended message. They’ll know when and where to use repetition without overdoing it. A ghostwriter worth their salt will know how to make the words sink deep into the hearts of the audience. This is because they understand how important it is to have the message resonate with people who hear it. They value connection to the people in the crowd.
Rappers also have a vested interest in engaging with their audience. They may have the stage presence, the voice, the moves, the energy. A true rap artist will understand their own limitations. As such, they will own the fact that they have a lot to offer an audience. Their honest self-examination will tell them that they aren’t top shelf writers.
A Forbes Magazine article indicates that many great business leaders fall short in communicating and speaking. The article reveals that these executives shine at these critical skills because they use ghostwriters. Even presidents use speechwriters; while they focus on such critical duties as review bills that Congress wants them to sign into law, oversee all branches of the armed forces, make agreements with foreign countries and more.
Forbes goes on to describe the ideal relationship with a ghostwriter and client as being one when the two collaborate together to get ideas and words to convey the desired message. Ted Sorensen was President Kennedy’s advisor and chief ghostwriter, according to the article. This illustrates how the right ghostwriter can make a person shine brighter.
Sorensen was said to write Kennedy’s truth, so that he spoke from an authentic place when speaking to Americans and others.
A rapper who finds his perfect ghostwriter match will likewise be able to deliver raps that reflect his or her true self through rap artistry.
Unfortunately some rappers mistakenly think that they can write their own rap content and deliver it. This misconception has hurt the career of many new school rappers.
When it comes to old school rappers – the ones who ushered in the rap genre – they were able to do their own writing, and then turn around and deliver their material. This showcased their versatility, highlighted their independence in creating and sharing their content.
That was then, and this is now.
Many rap artists use their talent to tell a story, to give a narrative voice to some subject, etc. Quite a few sources out there clarifies that songs are, by and large, group efforts. It highlights the important parts of any musical project – the artist vocals, the lyrics, the instrumental, and the mix. Clearly, what is written by whoever writes it, needs the rapper’s voice. This clear contribution is part of what makes everything works. If all four parts are top tier, the end product will also be top tier.
Outside of the rap aspect, no one complains about the rapper not being the instrumentalist, mixer or engineer.
There are benefits to this type of specialization, which enables someone to operate in the areas where they are most gifted.
In this industry, the music artist wants to be the best. They are competing in a market with plenty of other rappers, and they are each trying to capture a large market share of fans. By all accounts, many have gotten to the top of the pile by using a ghostwriter to help increase their chances of success.
The rappers who have made their mark often had lyrical help. They typically have had something to bring to the table before they seek out a ghostwriter. This means that they have a concept or issue they want to express their concerns about. When that is the case, a ghostwriter can use the rapper’s position on a subject, written or discussed story outline or points to include and put the message to words. In other words, a ghostwriter can run with the rapper’s vision. They are like the sponge that absorbs the material and then like the waters that deliver the outflow. Until the rapper puts it before an audience, it’s of little value. The audience, streamers, downloaders and purchasers are voting on how well both the rapper and his or her ghostwriter did.
Although the rapper depends on the ghostwriter to give his material wings, he or she has to be the lightening rod. By any measure, the rapper who either leaves out the ghostwriter or doesn’t find one with whom they mesh with, is writing a death warrant for his or her career.
Neither presidents nor successful business people seem to worry about any real or imagined stigma associated with having a ghostwriter. Instead they bask in the aftermath of a delivery that they couldn’t have made without that helping hand.
In a July 23rd, 2015 article, Hip Hop Wired discloses that Drake had used a ghostwriter or co-writer; and that it started a human and digital universe storm. The article, titled, “10 Rappers Who Have Used Ghostwriters,” indicates that the rapper’s status at the top of his field was in potential jeopardy.
Some may fear that using a ghostwriter may hurt their image or careers in similar ways. On the other hand, there’s the fact that a ghostwriter obviously gave Drake high caliber status, praise, fans and sales.
Most of this article highlights the benefits of ghostwriters, for those who have used them. One example they cite is Kanye, who they credit as a ghost producer for The Hitman’s D-Dot.
One interview subject, Skillz, claimed responsibility for lyrics for the rap artist, Mase. The article mentions that Snoop Dogg credited some of his “Malice in Wonderland” project to others in 2009.
The revealing article highlighted the fact that others have confirmed or denied using ghostwriters, but has a tone that indicates that it’s not uncommon or inappropriate for a rapper to use this kind of help.
In another article, Forbes Magazine uses the term phantom writers. At the same time, Elite Daily dedicated an extensive article to disclosing many musicians who ghostwrites lyrics for others.
This article, titled, “Musicians That Got Filthy Rich Ghostwriting Other People’s Songs,” mentions the Drake controversy, but adds these words, “But you’ll find out that ghostwriting songs for other stars isn’t anything out of the ordinary in the music industry.”
Julian Sonny, who wrote this article, writes that the Michael Jackson song, “You Are Not Alone,” was written by R. Kelly before his career in R&B took off.
Ty Dolla $ign is listed as a ghostwriter for many rappers and other musicians, including Chris Brown.
By any measure, the entire article puts a positive slant on ghostwriting. The tone suggests that it’s highly acceptable and very popular in the world of music. Although some frown on it, suggesting that it’s unethical, dishonest, not representative of what the rapper can really do, it’s clear that this taboo element has some valid challenges.
Fans who feel cheated because a rapper used a ghostwriter may very well sit back and take a look at whether the end product, the experience that they have with the finished product, is more important than all the behind the scenes aspects which contributed to maximizing their experience.
For any rapper worth his or her salt wants that experience to be all that it can be for the fans and others enjoying the listening experience. They know that so much is riding on their efforts to shine, and they can compete on a better lyrical level if the writing is equal to, or greater than, the rap.