Translating Jesse Stu

Matt Taibbi, the source of many of my ideas, let loose the other day with an hilarious post in which he “translated” a column about Haiti by David Brooks, the New York Times columnist most famous amongst brothers such as myself for saying something to the effect of, “If only Palestinians could find their Mahatma Gandhi, maybe they wouldn’t have so many problems.” I thought I’d do something similar with a blog post I found over at The Rap Up, by a guy who runs an online ghostwriting service.

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.

TRANSLATION: This article is intended for people ignorant enough to have never heard or ghostwriting, and hence probably wouldn’t know from good rap music anyway. No grown person with a proper frame of reference could possibly be swayed by an argument as specious as the one I’m about to make. Can you believe there was a time in hip-hop when people had a sense of pride about themselves? It used to be that rappers would make it seem as if they wrote their lyrics themselves, because the audience wouldn’t accept it otherwise. This was back in the ’80s and ’90s, when rap music was worth a shit.

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.

TRANSLATION: It’s 2010 now, so you know what that means: It wasn’t just one decade ago that rap music was worth a shit, it was two decades ago. It’s time to dispense with the notion that MCing is a genuine act of personal expression. Internets technology has made it such that any ol’ wack nigga can buy some rhymes from a random Indian guy on a message board, spit them into a shitty microphone connected to a laptop computer, email the result to the semi-literate Canadian kid who runs a site called Nah Right, and be considered just as legitimate as any other artist (by people who don’t know any better).

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.

TRANSLATION: Like the late, great “Wax” Dart Adams, I got my start in hip-hop spamming message boards, and hence should never be taken seriously. The fact that my income, such as it is, arrives via PayPal lets you know I’m not sane enough to pass that personality exam they make you take to get a job at Target. I probably also sell shit on eBay, like the late, great Noz. My clientele consists of people whose careers only exist within the realm of MySpace and YouTube, weed carriers, people from foreign countries, and the Sugar Hill Gang.

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.

TRANSLATION: I really do believe that aiding wack MCs is good for hip-hop. The fact that I’m trying to make money selling rhymes to people who can’t write rhymes of their own is just a coincidence. There’s a lot of people out there who could use my services, including people who own rapper outfits but can’t actually rap, and people who used to be able to rap well, before they smoked all that crack. And since kids these days are dumb enough that they might actually find an album by one of my clients to be a more compelling work of art than an album by a real MC, this will just give them that many more albums to buy. It might even save the economy.

  • http://www.mikestreezy.com Mike Streezy

    Aint that the truth! Man. I guess I need to start “ghostwriting”! Prolly could make a lot more money than trying to get out there and represent something you actually believe in! Let these youngins starve themselves out. Nobodys really selling records across the board. It used to be profitable to sell a cd. Now theres rappers on every block from the hood out to the woods. Folks gon get tired of working and look for a new quick and easy buck. Only ones that will be left will be the artists that do it out of love.

  • http://tonygrands.blogspot.com Tony Grands

    Shots fired!

    Coolio might be offended by this drop, although is getting your son to write your raps considered ghostwriting, since y’all share the same DNA?

  • The Unknown

    I think it is disgraceful to rap someone else’s lyrics. There should be warning labels on cd’s that are ghostwritten.

  • http://xxlmag.com BIGKUSH2K10

    DON’T GIVE A FUCK, GOOD MUSIC IS GOOD MUSIC.” nj legalized smoke, but for medical purposes. Nice!

  • Deadly MIME

    I’m an MC myself and I do notbelieve that paying for or having a ghostwriter is good at all. I understand that back in the day many rappers wrote for other rapper and shit. But at the same time, the indiviuaity and the sense of honesty that comes with lyrics of that artist seems to be absent. Its also not fair because I consider it as cheating. Yea its profitable and yea lots of rapper benefit, but still I think every rapper from the local rapper round your hood to the mainstream most popular rapper has to al least be original with lyrics. I’m with Mike Streezy the only ones left thats gonna be in hip-hop are the ones that do it out of love and i think that where hip-hop is goin right now.

  • Bigjon

    Dam Straight..

    1. no ghostwriting

    I would also add

    2. Either YOU, or YOUR producer should make ALL of your beats – no outsourcing that either. This is supposed to be a talent. You wouldn’t see rockers let other people make their music for them would you?

  • NotoriousAGC

    everyone know Dr. Dre has been ghostwritten for YEARSSS(2 decades?) hasn’t hurt his credibility yet, he’s even considered one of the BEST TO DO IT…well for his Producin’ anyway LOL. you guys see my point?

  • BEEZIE!

    The only nigga in the game that can (and does) get away with having his lyrics written for him is Dr. Dre… he drops a classic album every decade, and at least he admits that he’s too busy making beats and selling headphones to have the time to do it… even though 10 years is more than enough time for his lazy ass to write enough rhymes, but hey…

    Everytime I listen to “Still D.R.E.” I can imagine JayZ saying every word he wrote for homie, cadence and all…

    • DV8

      one time I was hella faded and they played still DRE on the radio but you can tell it was sped up a little. It sounded like Jay was rapping it.

  • Broke Iz A Disease

    Don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write checks!

  • http://www.jamal7mile.blogspot.com Jamal7Mile

    Never thought I’d see the day when being a SUCKER MC turned into a business venture. It used to be called BITING. Three decades ago, if you couldn’t rap you weren’t supposed to get a record deal. And if you couldn’t write raps then your freestyle game had better be tight as fuck or else you were a SUCKER MC!

    Damn, Biz Markie! I don’t know what to say about that one.

    Anyway, great drop Bol. You gotta translate more articles and quotes more often. I was laughing from top to bottom!

  • sealsaa

    ^^^ I’ve been making this point about Dre for a minute now. Out of any of the ghostwriter rappers you can name, Dre still manages to maintain his credibility, an people are still hyped over his releases. I’ve never been able to fathom WHY. Why you want to hear a guy spit some shit that someone else wrote for him?

    People are looking forward to Detox as if it were the second coming of Illmatic, despite the very public knowledge that Dre doesn’t write his own shit, and hasn’t for more than a decade. I just don’t get it.

    • Detroit P

      Dre has never really been looked at as a real rapper…people don’t really listen to his albums for his rapping…they listen to it for the sound as a whole that he makes..the songs themselves as a whole…the feel of the album….and the OTHER rappers on it..Now if you wanna talk about his Ghost Production well that’s a different story because he is looked at as a great producer…but this hasnt really come up tho, because ghost production is harder to find out about than ghost writing..its fucked up when someone else makes a beat and you just slap your name on there(although that is an oversimplification of the process ghostproduction)…but still..

    • DV8

      Dre has also had ghost producers and/or people whose records he took credit for. Ask Daz, Drama Family, Scott Storch, etc.

  • tensensi

    Other genres of music do this all the time. It’s called being a songwriter.

    I don’t think anybody but Kanye could pull off “Jesus Walks”, which he did not write. Maybe Tupac.

  • http://www.bboycult.com $ykotic/Don McCaine

    Bol must be swimming in some certified ass. Son is focused!

    “Only ones that will be left will be the artists that do it out of love.”

    “You wouldn’t see rockers let other people make their music for them would you?”

    “Never thought I’d see the day when being a SUCKER MC turned into a business venture. It used to be called BITING.”

    “Out of any of the ghostwriter rappers you can name, Dre still manages to maintain his credibility, an people are still hyped over his releases. I’ve never been able to fathom WHY.”

    Great comments people.

  • http://www.shabooty.com shabooty

    lolz.

    on an semi-related at best – note, any1 else think that Skillz looks like the baltimore sun editor on The Wire?

    • SouthsideChi773

      I thought I was the only one who noticed that.But on the other hand not too many know who (Mad)Skillz is,no shots fired.

      lolz.

  • El Tico Loco

    If your main trade was to DJ, produce, or beatbox (think Biz) you should get pass for just wanting to drop some vocals is no problem we ain’t paying you to rap. Now if your main job is to spit and you don’t do shit else? You need to hit that pad hard.

  • Brooklyn

    i don’t think anyone wants a dre album for dre’s lyrics, it’s probably because dre’s albums are always on point as far as production and guest spots are concerned. without the tight production and snoop, “the chronic” wouldn’t have been shit. “2001″ wouldn’t have been shit without the tight production and eminem. dre knows where his strength lies, that’s why he puts superior lyricists on his songs.

  • BIGNAT

    Nas wrote for Will Smith is that true someone has to confrim this for me

    • JihaD

      Nas wrote “Get Jiggy Wit It”… seriously…

      JihaD

  • sealsaa

    Nas also wrote “Welcome to Miami” for Will Smith.

  • newyawka631

    I still think Lil Wayne has a ghostwriter.The rumors were swirling a few years ago,when he did a 360 wit his style.It might even be Drake,da nigga did cum out of da woodworks.Or it could be da otha way around…Shorty from Young Money spitz just like Weezy also…Hmmmmmmmm

  • AK

    Dre retains credibility because nobody is terribly invested in him as a rapper. Dre-the-rapper is kind of like a character more than an actual person. We’re invested in him as a producer – that’s his expression, that’s what Dre is to the audience, and Dre-the-rapper is more of a stage act that is symbolic, a straight-man to play ringmaster for more colorful and acrobatic performers like Snoop, Em, Kurupt, &c.

    Lil’ Wayne does not have a ghostwriter. You can see him writing the verse for “Swagger Like Us” in the Carter documentary. A ghostwriter would also presumably do a lot less, be much less weird, and exercise greater quality control.

  • NotoriousAGC

    I love the comments in XXL, they provoke thoughts,ideas,hilariousness( i know it aint a word),but most of all they smart, unlike SOHH, did you guys see the comment section with Ron Mexico’s DN tournament? SOHH is over-run with little 8 yearolds

    • http://tonygrands.blogspopt.com Tony Grands

      @AGC

      I’ll tell you what, XXL is one of the few comments sections were dudes hold intelligible conversations.

      SOHH is almost worse than WSHH because those motherfuckers really believe all the blather they spew. My favorite “character” over @ SOHH is Jeremy aka BigUp2BK. AHH is a virtual billboard. Half the comments are spam, the other half is links to the youtube songs of the day, or niggas going back & forth over religion to gang banging. Nah Right @ least is entertaining, & they have some cool sidenote convo’s sometimes. WSHH is the cyber ghetto. Oh, don’t forget Media Take Out, because those are some illiterate motherfuckers over there.

      I respect the cats that come here. There’s no unnecessary beefs, idiot rants, foolish nigganometry, etc.

      • NotoriousAGC

        I finally actually found a place where i can have good talks about hiphop, and learn a lot from older cats, really nice man to come home from a 10 hour shift and read in here.

  • caino

    Man, Dre gets a pass, cos shit well we all know he aint a rapper, his albums do well cos of the guest spots and production and beats!!

    l mean we all know that Ice Cube wrote most of the lyrics for NWA!!

  • these posts are racist

    Free Palestine.

  • these posts are racist

    P.S.,

    Byron, this was a great drop and hilarious. If rappers who spit ghostwritten rhymes ever develop the ability to feel shame – there are going to be a lot of embaressed pseudo emcees.

    Emcee’ing is “self” expression…not someone else’s expression. Long live real hip hop…death to fad rap.

  • Lefty

    preach streezy

  • nicholasdelorejo

    You know what’s sad? even if a ghostwriting becomes the norm of the industry, it still won’t translate into sales. Take TI for instance. Prior to Paper trail, dude has admitted to just frestyling his songs. And from Urban Legend to TI vs TIP they managed to go platinium. Gucci mane is known to suck balls as a lyricists. He knows and the people who buy his music knows it. But with all of the cost that was put into production and features, Gucci still didn’t bother pay someone for a ghostwriter. I’m just saying that more rappers are inclined to spend more energy on the catchy beats rather then the lyrics because people aren’t buying albums for it. If that were the case then there would be a such thing as ghost writers because they would be too busy being album selling artists.

  • newyawka631

    @AK,

    Weezy was writing the “Swagga like us”verse.I thought he didn’t write his shit down,it was str8 off da dome.Get da fuckk adda hea.I don’t think Jay-z does neither…..As for da peace on XXL,i’m bring back da frestyle battles.Who want some of da kid.Or do i gotta start making targetzzzzzzz……..

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