Since the beginning of music, artists have written songs for other artists.
Back in 2015, Meek Mill’s feud with Drake pulled ghostwriters into hip-hop’s center stage. As the story goes, Meek accused Drake of using a ghostwriter by the name Quentin Miller, to write raps on Drake’s 2015 commercial mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, as well as Drake’s feature verse on Meek’s 2015 song “R.I.C.O.” Drake subsequently responded with two diss records, “Charged Up” and the soon-to-be club banger “Back to Back,” seemingly crashing Meek Mill before the battle truly started. Drake was crowned victor, but the ghostwriting allegations (a rap game no-no), became the first blemish to Drizzy’s then-spotless resume.
As for Quentin Miller, the Atlanta based rapper became synonymous with the newfound ghostwriter phenomenon. Unbeknownst to the mainstream public, songwriting, co-writing and ghostwriting have been commonplace in rap since the genre’s infant stages.
Back in the late-80’s, it was Ice Cube writing the major of rhymes for his NWA group members. Jay-Z penned Dr. Dre’s 1999 smash hit “Still D.R.E.” Even to this day, Lil Yatchy is credited with writing the City Girl’s hit song “Act Up.”
“I wrote the whole song except for JT’s last verse,” Lil Yatchy told Complex. “But everything that everyone is singing and all. I wrote the whole thing.”
During the ‘90’s a.k.a. the golden era of rap music, artists writing rhymes for other artists was taboo. An artist couldn’t be considered a true MC if his or her rhymes were written by someone else. All respect and authenticity could be lost behind the thought of a rapper not writing their own raps. That didn’t stop rapper’s from doing it, but it did stop them from publicly announcing it.
Let’s check the song credits. Jay-Z, real name Shawn Carter, has song credits throughout Foxy Brown’s 1996 debut album Ill Na Na. P. Diddy has six albums in his discography, but ask him how many rhymes he wrote? As he famously claimed on his 2001 standout track “Bad Boy For Life,” “Don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write checks.”
Rapper/producer Kanye West is notorious for employing ghostwriters and hosting album writing camps from Hawaii to Wyoming. One of his biggest hits, “Jesus Walks,” was written by his then go-to songwriter Rhymefest.
So, yes, artists write for other artists. Songwriting is a lucrative career for those who wish to stay behind the scenes. As lines blur between rapping, singing, melodies, top lines, and song structures, for fans, we should understand the music business is expansive and there is a place for those who talented at songwriting. The quicker we can get over the notion, the quicker we can get back to enjoying the music for what it is.