Pasty-white Canadian Neil Hrab was the unlikely speechwriter who put me on to the fact of ghostwriters in the rap music business. And since he did, I’ve been casually researching the phenomenon.
Along the way, I uncovered a column whose author posits that the trouble with rap music these days is, “not enough ghostwriting in the game.”
“And when I say ghostwriting,” writes business consultant and “Hip-Hoppreneur” Cedric Muhammad, “I don’t mean just bringing in a talented kid off the block every time you are too weeded out or lazy to write rhymes on your own, like you should.”
No, Muhammad writes: More artists need to “open up the creative process of song-writing to input from others … which would allow their minds to expand, and with it, their lyrical content and audience.”
Though rap culture does have ghostwriters, Muhammad writes, “the culture only tolerates collaboration (and too narrowly defines it as two rappers separately working together on the same song) while it celebrates individuality.”
He quotes an anonymous rap industry friend:
Music publishers would be able to find more people who can write but, aren’t “rappers” and could generate lots of income from their intellectual property. This opens the game up for old and new players to be able to eat off of the table. Writers (some of whom may currently be in the world of fiction and non-fiction writing, even poetry) and artist managers would be able to make a living from grooming or helping rappers who can write, and by being a bridge that can bring outside authors into the rap game. This could be a great way for struggling writers to support themselves. As it stands now, a dude who can write but can’t rap is a guy looking for a job. They have something to offer though. What the book publishing world is rejecting, the music industry might find value in. Many people—artists, producers, managers, and labels—would be able to profit off of this overlooked talent pool.
Is a dearth of ghostwriters also a problem with public speaking these days? We’ve got ready and willing and talented and powerful leaders who are relying on too few speechwriters (and giving the scribes they do use far too little literary license)?
No, that’s not the problem.
But it is pretty to think so, isn’t it? —DM