Yesterday I was having a discussion about whether or not Dr. Dre can be considered a rapper. The discussion quickly digressed into the topic of ghostwriting. For those that don’t know, here’s a definition of a ghostwriter — ‘One who writes for and gives credit of authorship to another’. The practice of ghostwriting in hip-hop has always carried a certain stigma. That is to say that no self-respecting MC would be caught dead reciting rhymes written by someone else. Yet we know the practice takes place. Jay-Z once told Vibe magazine that “I get paid a lot of money to not tell you who I write for.” It’s widely known that Dr. Dre’s lyrics have been written by The D.O.C., Ice Cube, Snoop, Jay-Z, Eminem, etc. I’m pretty sure Puffy doesn’t write all (any?) of his own lyrics. Da Brat has written for Jermaine Dupri. (no comment!) And didn’t Nas write some stuff for Will Smith one of Will’s latest albums? Who knows how many other examples are out there. This raises several questions for me.
- Why aren’t singers and musicians held to the same standard as rappers? Musicians aren’t chastised if they play music that they didn’t compose. Great singers aren’t ridiculed for singing the words of someone else.
- Would it be better if the liner notes explicitly said ‘written by XYZ’, instead of trying to be stealth about it? (For that matter, does the average person even read the liner notes?)
- Is writing your own lyrics an essential part of being a true MC? Is that part of what differentiates an MC from a rapper?
- Will the stigma ever go away?
Update: Here’s an article describing the differences between rappers and MCs/Emcees. Here’s a snippet:
Rappers make rap records and are in the game for the sole purpose of monetary gain and fame. They have no love for the microphone or hip-hop, which consists of 4 elements – D.J.ing, Emceeing, Graffiti and Break Dancing!!! … If both were to get on the mic at a jam out side and the d.j. is playing breakbeats , the m.c. will tear the rapper ass up because he is in his domain his arena and he will not only rock rhymes he will rock the party; showcase the d.j. with no gimmicks no hype man, no dancers just him and his gift of gab. The rapper will say some good rhymes that is probably in record form, meaning it will be 16 or 24 bars and will feel very uncomfortable up there by himself, no dancers, no security and no hype man and to top it off if the record skips he,the rapper will stop and look at the d.j. or search for the soundman. The m.c. will stutter back on track… Last but not least m.c.s roll with other m.c.s, rappers roll with body guards and entourages and stay stuck in v.i.p. rooms.
(Originally posted on Move the Crowd)