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- Intro<em>XXL</em> Presents... Hip-Hop's 10 Greatest GhostwritersAllegations that <a href="http://www.xxlmag.com/news/2012/08/nas-ghostwriting-allegations-spark-controversy/">stic. man and Jay Eletronica contributed some writing to Nas’ <em>Untitled</em> LP</a> has added another chapter to hip-hop’s never-ending ghostwriting saga. Though initially billed as a cardinal sin, it’s been prevalent in hip-hop from the start. Grandmaster Caz famously penned lyrics on The Sugarhill Gang and Big Daddy Kane earned stripes for writing half of Biz Markie’s debut, <em>Going Off</em>, including classics cuts like “Vapors” and “Biz Is Going Off.”<br /><br />Over the years ghostwriting has become somewhat acceptable when provided for non-traditional rappers. Clearly, moguls like Diddy and Jermaine Dupri were too busy closing deals and producing to write for themselves, so their use of writers-for-hire was tolerated. It’s what’s made the Nas claims so controversial. Under no circumstances should such a prolific wordsmith lean on any kind of lyrical aid.<br /><br />It's important to point out that the extent of stic. man and Jay Elec's alleged writing is still unclear. <a href="http://www.xxlmag.com/news/2012/08/jay-electronica-and-stic-man-respond-to-rumors-of-writing-for-nas/">Both spoke up in Nas' defense</a>, but their response wasn't explicit enough to put the issue to bed. It's pretty common for MCs to borrow a line or two from time to time. Could this be the case? Cormega's been on record saying that he lent Nas his famous, "I'll be flooded with ice so hell fire can't scorch me," on The Firm's "Affirmative Action." The rest of Nasty's verse was all his.<br /><br /> For now, Esco's alleged ghostwriting fiasco remains a mystery. What has been confirmed, however, is that God's Son has historically been assisting other rappers. He’s written for Dr. Dre, Will Smith and Diddy, and God knows who else isn’t on record. Plenty more MCs have serviced their bars for cash over the years. On the heels of this on going issue, <em>XXL</em> presents Hip-Hop’s 10 Greatest Ghostwriters.—<em>XXL Staff</em> (<a href="http://www.twitter.com/xxl">@XXL</a>)
- 10. Royce da 5'9" (Tie)10. Royce da 5'9" (Tie)<strong>Known Clients:</strong> Dr. Dre, Diddy<br />Nickel-Nine infamously contributed to Dr. Dre’s <em>2001</em> album (“The Message”), but his manager violated the first rule of ghostwriting: thou shall not speak. The Detroit MC’s behind-the-scenes man blabbed to the media and the good doctor quickly rebuked their pass to the land of D-R-E. Despite the hiccup, Diddy later hired Royce for his poison pen. There's been murmurs that Royce will be contributing to <em>Detox</em> as well.
- 10. Rick Ross (Tie)10. Rick Ross (Tie)<strong>Known Clients:</strong> Trina, Diddy, Dr. Dre<br />Ricky Rozay’s resume includes gold albums, crew construction and block bangers. But before Ross became the Bawse, he was the employee: double R wrote rhymes for his former label-mate, Trina, and rumors about that the Miami MC put in work for Trick Daddy. Although he didn’t exactly deliver his, Ross’ work helped launch Slip-N-Slide into the mainstream. Who knows nann now?
- 9. Grandmaster Caz9. Grandmaster Caz<strong>Known Clients:</strong> Sugarhill Gang<br />He may not possess a litany of credits, but Caz, undoubtedly, has <em>the</em> ghostwriting credit—he penned the rhymes behind hip-hop’s first breakout hit, “Rapper’s Delight.” Technically, GMC didn’t ghostwrite since his book of rhymes was stolen. However, years later he received the acknowledgement he long deserved.
- 8. Sauce Money8. Sauce Money<strong>Known Clients:</strong> Diddy<br />Sauce Muthafuckin’ is an MC with bars sharper than Ludacris’ hairline. The one-time Jay-Z cronie took ghostwriting efforts to new heights when the crafty wordsmith won a Grammy for penning Diddy’s tribute to his fallen friend, B.I.G, “We’ll Be Missing You.” It’s a feat unmatched, still.
- 7. Big Daddy Kane7. Big Daddy Kane<strong>Known Clients:</strong> Biz Markie<br />King Asiatic Nobody’s Equal was suave on the mic, but the Brooklyn MC was also devastating with a pen. Kane crafted classics for himself, but he also increased the value of his Juice Crew brethren Biz Markie’s catalog. “Vapors” was one of the few gifted Biz’s way from BDK.
- 6. Nas6. Nas<strong>Known Clients:</strong> Will Smith, Dr. Dre, Diddy, Foxy Brown, Jermaine Dupri<br />Despite being embroiled in a controversy this past week over allegations that he, himself, used ghostwriters on his <em>Untitled</em> album, Nas has a history of penning hits for others, most notably his former labelmate, Will Smith. The Queens poet put in writing duties for Smith on the Tinsel Town titan’s <em>Big Willie Style</em> album, contributing “Gettin’ Jiggy wit It,” “Miami” and more. He also put in work for Dr. Dre (“Watcher”), Diddy (“I Need A Girl”), Foxy Brown and Jermaine Dupri. Whether he needed help to be more radical or not, one thing’s certain: Esco is more than able to cover that fly shit.
- When Big was in his prime, he shouted out Australian knitwear label Coogi on just about every song. On "Hypnotize," he rapped, "Every cutie with a booty bought a Coogi"; on the "One More Chance" remix, he admitted, "I stay Coogi down to the socks"; and on "Big Poppa," he exclaimed, "Living better now, Coogi sweater now." Needless to say, with so many Biggie cosigns, the street wear brand has become a true mainstay in hip-hop. To this day, rappers celebrate the brand by rocking Coogi at shows, in photo shoots, and even on album covers. Check out photos of your favorite rappers wearing Coogi.
- 4. Jay-Z4. Jay-Z<strong>Known Clients:</strong> Memphis Bleek, Foxy Brown, Dr. Dre<br /> Jay-Z’s ‘96 debut, <em>Reasonable Doubt</em> may not have struck platinum until much later, but the God MC earned a plaque that same year for his writing contributions to Foxy Brown’s <em>Ill Na Na</em>. He’d previously written for Fox on <em>RD</em>’s “Ain’t No Nigga” and penned Memphis Bleek’s verse on “Coming of Age.” He arguably topped himself when he ghostwrote Dr. Dre’s “Still Dre” three years later. Not only did Jigga Man pen from Dre’s perspective as if the Good Doctor wrote it himself, Brooklyn’s own captured West Coast life as if he was bred in Compton. Only a select few have been fortunate enough to benefit from Mr. Carter’s pen. He doesn't share his sharp bars anymore—that we know of—but for the right price he can certainly still make your shit tighter.
- 3. Ice Cube3. Ice Cube<strong>Known Clients:</strong> N.W.A<br />Eazy-E may have been the mastermind behind N.W.A, but Cube’s lyrics are the reason the influential Los Angeles group became known as the world’s most dangerous group. In addition to writing his own rhymes, Cube shared ghostwriting duties throughout the <em>Panic Zone</em> EP and <em>Straight Outta Compton</em>—at times writing for Eazy, Dre and even MC Ren. Yea, yay!
- 2. The D.O.C.2. The D.O.C.<strong>Known Clients:</strong> N.W.A., Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg<br />The D.O.C. was off to a fast start until he got into a near fatal car accident that damaged his vocal chords. The crash happened only months after the Dallas MC’s certified platinum debut, <em>No One Can Do It Better</em>, hit stores. He reinvented himself as a ghostwrite who contributed lyrics to N.W.A. LPs post Ice Cube and later Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s early work. He’s still part of Dre’s pen team to this day.
- 1. Skillz1. Skillz<strong>Known Clients:</strong> Diddy, Ma$e, Foxy Brown, Jermaine Dupri, Will Smith, Willow Smith<br />Most MCs on the list have occasionally been writers-for-hire, but Skillz—in addition to D.O.C.— is one of hip-hop's true career ghostwriters. There's no denying his own catalog as an MC. The Virgina lyricist has five albums to his credit. But no other MC has written for such a lengthy and diverse list of clients. He even documented his feat on the controversial 2000 single, "Ghostwriter.” On the song, Skillz puts several of his high profile clients on blast—some for failing to compensate him. His label at the time, Rawkus Records, edited the names out. Though he would later perform the first verse uncensored—revealing that Jermaine Dupri, Diddy and shockingly Ma$e, had previously procured his services. It’s no secret that hip-hop’s very first crossover hit—The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight—was ghostwritten, but Skillz’s revealing cut shed light on how common the once taboo practice had become. Skillz more recently added Willow Smith to his resume and he’s maintain a close working relationship with her dad, Will, over the years. Skillz may never put the song back out with the names in it as promised, but his confirmed client list is enough to certify him as the greatest ghostwriters to ever do it.