Hip-Hop in the Millennium: What Defines a Rapper and is it Okay to Have Ghostwriters?
A rapper is essentially a musical artist that can effectively rhyme, either telling a story or purely expressing thoughts, ideas, feelings or situations over a beat, an instrumental or at times acapella, using whit flow and at times, humour. During this time, a particular rhythmic motion must be maintained within the delivery and expression keeping with the tempo, unless it’s acapella.
Although Rap is similar to poetry, it is much more complex. The way in which the rapper chooses to form his sentences and paragraphs is completely up to him or her as there is no fixed form of rapping, nonetheless, they do have to meet certain norms, for example the rhymes have to be stylish, they need to flow, make sense, be cohesive, captivating and create a vibe and atmosphere for the listener.
The rapper has to be able to convey their rhymes in an unconventional form, in a way that the common person would not, the more ‘word play’ (using words with duplex meanings that could make sense in both instances or speaking in parables but still being able to transmit their message or tell their story effectively) the more credit the rapper receives, but this is not always true as there are rappers that are just as talented and respected based on their story telling abilities, their flow (how they dance on the beat or accompany the instrumental with their words, adding to the overall rhythm with the rhythm of their rhymes). Some are reputable for their energy and their ability to deliver a captivating performance of their rhymes or in this day and age a rhyme that was given to them by a ghost-writer.
Originality is a big issue in hip-hop as when hip-hop began it was more about each individual portraying their art and delivering their rhymes themselves. However, now that it has become more popular and more of a business it is about selling records more than who is an authentic rapper, who can come up with credible rhymes to wow the crowd and get views gain critical acclaim and potentially sell records.
Others would argue that this is wrong and this is not hip-hop, whilst others call it business and see it as a fair game. I for one, don’t see anything wrong with it the only problem comes when we enter into the discussion of who are the top ten or top five greatest rappers of all time, if its merely for commercial purposes then I don’t think it’s an issue but when discussing art and rating artists, then I believe that those who write their own rhymes are to be placed in the conversation and those that use ghost writers should be ghosts in those conversations, pun intended, this is simply because we wouldn’t credit Davinci or Picasso or Michael Angelo if we were to find out someone else drew their pieces and they merely coloured. Hip-Hopers take the genres very seriously as an art & design or a literature enthusiast takes their passion, hence the tension that arises when the discussions start to circulate about who wrote what and who is the greatest rapper. 50 cent had 'In The Club' written by Lloyd Banks, However, 50 cent wrote most of his own rhymes for the classic album titled 'Get Rich or Die Trying', and
so did the rest of G-Unit. Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Slick Rick, Tupac and Biggie, Eminem and Jay Z we know to have written their own raps and so many more that we class as legends in hip-hop, therefore it is an unwritten rule that for you to be classed as a lyricist you have to write your own rhymes as ‘a Lyricist is a word smith that can mould words in whatever way they choose without loosing the essence of the message.’ However, as a rapper that is artistic and wants to deliver a wide variety of flavours and styles through rap or doesn't mind collaborating with other writers on a song, it doesn’t hurt anyone to have assistance in writing songs or verses as long as they can be delivered properly. However, I do suggest admitting to having ghostwriters when questioned as there is no shame in it, the shame comes when we allow people to remain under the false pretense that we are both the authors and the deliverers of the raps when questioned.
Dr Dre, Puff daddy, and Kanye West have all had people ghost write for them and still have a humongous amount of respect in the industry and from fans, so many other genres have help in songwriting as hip-hop as evolved and people like drake and Iggy Azelea are now major superstars that derive from hip hop who have fallen under much scrutiny because of rumours of using ghostwriters. I believe it is important for rappers and the general hip-hop community to accept that this is just one of the realities of the common age and the stage that hip-hop has come to requires there to be a more collaborative effort to create amazing pieces of work and moments that we will all enjoy and gain the same if not more attention than the other genres enjoying the status that has been long overdue.
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