Last night on Twitter was LIT. Meek Mill was throwing all kinds of shots at all kinds of folks for one reason or another. Some people think it’s because Drake didn’t Tweet out Meek’s album. Then Meek countered that he didn’t tweet it out because Meek and company found out he didn’t write his verse on “R.I.C.O.”
There are several ideas at play here. First, does it even matter if Drake wrote that verse on “R.I.C.O.” or if he has ghost writers in general? Second, is Meek telling the truth in making it seem like whole songs are not written by the Toronto emcee? Third, will Hip Hop ever get over its obsession with people writing their own lyrics? Regardless we’ll try to nail down the first question at play here.
So, Does It Matter If Drake Writes His Own Lyrics Or Not?
Andre: Last night on Twitter played out like some kind of Greek tragedy. Meek, the outspoken Philly emcee and rapper vying for the title of “realest motherfucker alive” may or may not have gotten in his feelings over Drake not tweeting out and promoting his album Dreams Worth More Than Money. Like it or not, artists know what’s being spoken about them on the micro level now, and it seemed Meek was peeved that whispers about how he did 218K in the first week were overshadowing the best work of his career. Cut to Twitter, where a series of Tweets lit up the rap-o-sphere as he blurted out these strong words, “Stop comparing drake to me too…. He don’t write his own raps! That’s why he ain’t tweet my album because we found out!” A, yo! Now, anyone who checks credits knows that not all the words spit by their favorite emcee are their own. We also know that no other genre has to deal with Hip Hop’s unspoken manifesto of first person narratives written by the one who lived them. Not Pop or R&B. And certainly not Rock (in all its iterations). So what’s so special about Hip Hop? Why does it matter?
Hip Hop is many many things. It’s part journalism in the way that it speaks truth to power. It’s part dance music and it’s part activism. Of course, it’s all entertainment and some of it is actual art. Better still, depending on the skill level of the artist, some songs are all of these things at the same time. It is an extraordinary creation. And, so, we put it on a pedestal in a way we don’t for other form of music. Its instrumentation and appropriation (sampling either of voice or music) is a distinct aspect of its DNA. And those ribosomes carry the legacy of an art form that took music back to the drum, which had been so long excluded as base and savage. So, with that in mind, writing your own lyrics is a tightly held mythology surrounding the form, whether or not it is actually practiced by the people who create the music we love. So my answer is two-fold. Yes, it does matter if Drake is writing his own lyrics because authorship is an important part of Hip Hop. A part of Hip Hop that I would like to see retain its level of exclusivity. And, no, it does not matter as much as we think it does. There are parts of Hip Hop, and all of them reference something. The production is in reference to something, and the flows, melodies and tacardian virile performances are in reference to something as well. In that way, being an author matters. But being a showman also matters. The voice matters, as well, and performing matters. Being a creator matters. But it’s not a ghostwriter when that person is credited for their work. And if it’s not a secret (have you seen Kanye West’s writing credits on albums?) then you can’t call it a ghostwrite. Perhaps it’s time for Hip Hop to let go of the mythology of the sole author, but not just yet. Lines like Kendrick Lamar’s on “King Kunta” are much too fun. But one thing’s for sure, Drake certainly does have “a lot of enemies.”
Ural: Hip Hop has changed for better or worse depending on who one ask. For some, it’s intricate bars on beats. Others, simple hooks and bass heavy production. Then there are people who exist in-between. In Meek Mills and Drake’s case, this is yet again another argument between rap purest vs. rap progressives. There was an interview done a while back where Minaj mentioned the Philly native reminded her of DMX because of how street he was. For a while now, it’s served as a double edged sword in regards to Milly. Clearly, it’s allowed him to not only make some of the best music of his career so far, spit some of the grimmest bars an artist in his position has been allowed and those various freestyles leading up to Dreams Worth More Than Money have been nothing short of breathtaking. Then again, that same raw spirit hasn’t served him well; especially on social media. Pointing to last night’s series of post where Mill alleged Drake doesn’t write his own rhymes. And yes, that’s a huge allegation for one of Hip Hop’s biggest artists of this generation. Then again, there are people who are going to take this very seriously. Others simply aren’t going to care much. There’s a level in the pop stratosphere where the technicals of creating music don’t matter. This is pretty much across the board, regardless of genre. You’d be pressed to find anyone within the mainstream buying public who actually cares about the actual creation of music unless there’s drama or controversy involved. Add how much music is released every moment and the art of creating music becoming secondary to how disposable things are.
Within the walls of Hip Hop’s core, maybe, just maybe writing one’s own lyrics matter. There’s a investment, level of intimacy and level of individualized style that’s always expected. Keeping it real has always been the notion. Makes sense as to how someone could argue whether or not someone like Fetty Wap, Lil Wayne, Drake and Young Thug is Hip Hop. It’s a revolving cycle getting more complex and complex as the years go on. This is all a matter of perspective and expectations. In Drake’s case, can he be called the best rapper of this generation by many and not write his own rhymes? For those traditionalist, a hard pill to swallow. Everyone else; like those who at one time called Iggy Azalea the queen of Hip Hop(despite sounding utterly ridiculous) even though Skeme outed himself as a ghostwriter, may feel completely different. Even the term ghost writer or writer has become murky in this conversation. Is anyone talking bars, lines, hooks, complete verses and complete songs? For example: Kanye West’s “New Slaves” had over ten writers involved. Did the Yeezus single become any less powerful or artistically great? This all depends on preference. This isn’t the first time Hip Hop has questioned Drake’s credibility as an emcee. Remember Drake’s Blackberry problem on Hot 97? Did it hurt him? Nah! Then why did Troy Ave get so much flack when he was caught on Sway? Could mean there’s eventually a point in which one rises to the top of popularity and the foundation doesn’t commercially matter? Who knows? Right now, even the rumors aren’t hurting him right now and people are still anticipating Views From The 6.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.
Ural Garrett is a Los Angeles-based journalist and HipHopDX’s Senior Features Writer. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.