Ghostwriting has been a topic of profound interest throughout hip-hop’s existence. So, when Jesse hipped me to his online ghostwriting service (yes, you read that right, online ghostwriting service), I asked him to give us his take on the issue, from an insider’s perspective. He was kind enough to share his insight on the history, process, and the evolution of ghostwriting. – Rizoh
In The Beginning, There Was Ghostwriting
For those who don’t know ghostwriting is when someone anonymously writes an artist’s lyrics. Ghostwriting has been part of hip hop for many years. Big Daddy Kane wrote for Biz Markie, Jay-Z wrote for Foxy Brown, Nas wrote for Will Smith, and Pharoahe Monch, Skillz and Sauce Money wrote for well, almost everyone. Until recently this occurred in backrooms through personal networks and was rarely acknowledged. The idea that a rapper didn’t write their own lyrics was stigmatized and the use of ghostwriters was kept secret and taboo. This was because a large part of hip hop’s legacy is based on individual expression. If a rapper’s using someone else’s lyrics then they were perceived to be less real.
In 2010, things have changed. The Internet and online social networking sites have allowed people to meet and collaborate over great distance. Everything has become a joint effort. We have all become interconnected and our experiences are shared. Producers and rappers can now exchange beats and vocals without ever meeting. A rapper can “outsource” their entire album online. Without leaving home they can buy guest appearances, instrumentals and now lyrics. The rapper supplies the creative vision (like a movie director or producer) and various support crew fill in the missing pieces (like a movie screenwriter or cinematographer). The idea that ghostwritten lyrics are fake has been replaced with the idea that they’re a collaborative transmutation of the rapper’s original intent.
How It Works
I started my ghostwriting business a couple years ago at the beginning of this transformation. I’d been writing for years and saw an opportunity to turn a hobby into something real. Instead of taking the traditional path of networking at concerts and sending out letters to established rappers I built my own site. I put up samples of my lyrics, bought some basic web advertising, and posted on hip-hop message boards. The response I got was overwhelming. There was a huge untapped market of MCs looking for lyrics… MySpace rappers, YouTube rappers, local stars, posse members, international rappers, and even a few established veterans. Suddenly it was alright to hire a writer and the Internet made it easy.
A lot of people are curious how about the process. First, the artist contacts me and gives me some personal information. They tell me about their world, their slang, their favorite subject matter, their artistic influences and about their friends, family and enemies. Then I send them a sample verse to make sure I have their style down and that they feel properly represented. After that they may request a verse, a song, or even a whole album. Payments are made in advance through PayPal.
Is Ghostwriting Good for Hip-Hop?
So the big question is, “is this good for hip hop?” My answer is yes. It absolutely is. Rapping is now open to so many more people. Someone with good flow and delivery who struggles with writing can now express themselves. A veteran rapper with writer’s block can buy lyrics and still put out music for their fans. The range of available music is now much wider because there are less barriers to becoming a rapper. This is great for fans because there’s now more variety. It also ensures the quality of lyrics can be top notch, a win for fans as well. Finally, ghostwriting allows a greater degree of collaboration. Something special happens when creative minds get together. The sum of the work they create is greater than its parts. Ghostwriting allows each person to do what they do best and thus creates a more compelling work of art.
- Words by Jesse Stu
Jesse Stu is the founder of Rap Rebirth, an online hip-hop ghostwriting service.