Does Hip Hop Need More Ghostwriters?
Cedric Muhammad – a well-known entrepreneur, economist, political strategist, author, and former journalist – suggests that rappers should utilize the talents of ghostwriters in efforts to spur their creativity and develop more original song content and concepts.
Muhammad writes a weekly column for AllHipHop.com, where he shared his insightful musings on the urban art form.
When people complain about the state of lyrics in rap music today and even ask me why I think it has been so long since more mature, socially relevant, and conscious lyrics were common place, along with the usual industry and radio politics 101 I run down, I have a standard statement, ‘Not enough ghost-writing in the game.’
And when I say ghostwriting I don’t mean just bringing in a talented kid off the block who can be exploited every time you are too weeded out or lazy to write rhymes on your own, like you should.
No, what I mean by the statement, ‘Not enough ghost-writing in the game,’ is not that rappers should no longer write their own rhymes, but rather, more of them need to open up the creative process of song-writing to input from others – whether fellow artists, educators, or marketing advisers – which would allow their minds to expand, and with it, their lyrical content and audience.
I think Mr. Muhammad is making an excellent point here (and no, I’m not just saying this because such an opportunity would be a dream job for me). How many times have you thought of concepts that would make great songs, or similar (or vastly different) artists who seem as though they would make great collaborations together? What if it were your job to dream up song topics, ideas, and potential collaborators – like a song or album manager?
Oh, the possibilities.
Muhammad goes on to note the many other successful artists whose careers have gone “to the next level” largely due to individuals or teams of writers.
“Just look at Michael Jackson. He was certainly capable of writing his own material, but would it have been as good as the stuff he created with the help of songwriter Rod Temperton and composer-arranger-producer Quincy Jones?
This is one of the main points I stressed in what I wrote of how incredible an artist like Beanie Sigel could be if a unique team of writers, researchers, and producers could be put together by a master song arranger like 50 Cent.
Again, Beanie Sigel can write his own material – and great stuff (he actually would be a great ‘ghost-writer’ for others).
But just imagine how much broader, risky, relevant, and topical his material could be if he had a creative team around him who could bring him concepts, information, and drafter material.
Not to mention that at a time when everyone is struggling to find additional ways to make money, song-writing could hold the key to multiple streams of income, for rappers considered washed up, in terms of sound and image (they could now boost their publishing income) and ambitious artists who just don’t have the ‘look’ or image necessary to be big (you know the old saying – ‘you have a great face for radio!’).”
The opportunities don’t merely mean more sales for record labels and individual artists, they also mean more sources of income within hip hop for those who may not be ready for the game. Look at Keri Hilson, Ne-Yo, and Sean Garrett, urban songwriters who released their own musical projects after proving themselves with the pen first.
The key to true solutions will always be collaboration. To put things simply, “two heads are better than one.” Should we reach a point that we realize this fundamental concept and take advantage of the possibilities such a realization could bring, hip hop will officially be revived and rejuvenated.
Such a movement in hip hop could mean a renewed fervor among artists as well as more consumer loyalty and excitement. Of course, those key components may make for higher record sales (and less bootlegging, downloading, and file sharing, too).
To sum it all up, collaborations can lead to a renewed commitment – in our struggling genre – to artistry, which could rejuvenate the music as well as the industry that we call hip hop.
I certainly hope the record labels are taking note.
I happen to be available and my salary is negotiable.
Do rappers need to rely on ghostwriters and “song managers?” What topics and collaborations would you suggest to your favorite artists? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
Main Image: The Radio Mall