After Meek Mill’s emotionally influenced slew of tweets about a week ago, the world at large was taken aback by his accusations. Meek is quoted as saying to not compare him to Drake, Drake doesn’t write his raps, he didn’t write his verse for RICO(a song on Meek’s latest solo album) and that his work should really be attributed to Quentin Miller, a member of the OVO camp who allegedly gets paid $5000 USD a month to write and craft records for Drake. Since this fiasco which lasted anywhere from 5-6 hours to 3 days, involving a slur of other rappers, including OG Maco, Roscoe Dash and OVO Producer “40”, Drake has yet to release a statement. Quentin Miller has denied being Drake’s Ghostwriter and prefers to be known as a collaborator. Funk Master Flex has played the reference track recorded by Miller for 10 Bandz, and claims there are reference tracks for Know Yourself, 6AM in New York and 6 God, all songs of Drake’s last solo album (though none of those were played). This has brought the big question into being, “Does drake having a Ghostwriter matter?”. Being the avid hiphop head I pride myself on being, I’ve decided to chime in and give my opinion on the matter.
Firstly let’s get something clear, there is a HUGE difference in getting ideas for lines or song structure or even entire hooks for songs from persons present during the recording process. This has and always will be a very integral part of Hiphop, it’s almost the manifestation of “Hiphop is the voice of the people, by the people”. That part of it is not considered “ghostwriting”. When someone else is paid to write entire verses or like 70-80% of their material is taken, paid for and done over and added to by an artist and we hear the final product, THAT is ghostwriting. In that regard, Mr. Miller’s statement that I alluded to earlier is in fact false, because the reference track that was used for Drake to do over 10 Bandz is not simply collaborating, but way more into the realm of Ghostwriting, much the way it is done in R&B. Now that the distinction is drawn let me say this, Ghostwriting in hiphop has always been alive and well. In fact entire classic albums have been ghostwritten (The Chronic, The Chronic 2001, Doggystyle, Big Willie Style, etc). However those albums have been celebrated the way they are because the artist made the fact that they paid for writers very well known previously and we accepted that and the MUSIC was still able to resonate with the world at large. The problem arises where an artist is heralded for having a sick pen game, and for being one of the great modern lyricists and having such real and personal content that invokes strong emotions in his fans, but then information leaks that they have ghostwriters. That in no way tarnishes the music, those records are still GREAT records but the artist, the legend to be, definitely is tarnished. Drake falls into this category, unfortunately. Though solid facts have not come out to prove how far back this has occurred, this goes back to the age old metaphor “if you take a teaspoon of dirty water and drop it into a glassful of clean water, you are going to end up with a glassful of dirty water”.
There is a silver lining for him though. Drake is one of the rare rappers whose music is not as big as him. His music is in his shadows, so to speak. Allow me to explain what I mean. Drake has never released a body of work as a major label, mainstream artist (post So Far Gone) that has stood the test of time and has impacted Hiphop in a way a MBDTF or a Blueprint or a Carter III has. Neither has his singles. Yes he has a slur of hits, but a majority, if not all of them are big not because they a classic timeless songs, but because they are Drake records. When you think of an artist like Jay Z, you think Hard Knock Life, PSA, Can I Live, Empire State of Mind, Big Pimpin etc. Landmark records that have and will stand the test of time and that have shaken up Hiphop and shifted culture forever. These songs mean a lot to the culture. Drake however, in my opinion has none of these type of massive records that are timeless and meaningful to the culture. He still somehow has managed to rack up 15 number ones and had all the songs off his entire last full-length album IYRTITL chart on the billboard simultaneously. It’s because somehow with Drake, it’s about him more that his music. He just needs to put something out and people are going to herald it. My point in saying this is that, Drake having a ghostwriter or ghostwriters (who knows) is not THAT terrible as say a NaS or Jay Z or Kendrick Lamar having ghost writers. Their music is bigger than themselves and means more to hiphop if they sincerely penned it. They shifted culture with their honest music and stories. Drake will continue to be a multiplatinum artist and still probably go on to be a legend in hiphop BUT, solely as an artist not and emcee and lyricist. That conversation is no longer available with Drake’s name in it.
Hiphop was built and born on talented chosen individuals, having the unique gift to craft real life stories all around them or real life experiences of others into music. With rhyming and flow and melody, people were able to connect with the words of this talented emcee and the message was able to resonate with them emotionally. The person who did this the best, or does this the best, is heralded as the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) and the people determine him/her. If someone has a “ghost” so to speak, penning these words for them and portray it to the world as if it was constructed/created by them and then later on it is found out to be false, he/she does not fit that GOAT criteria. They may still be a GREAT artist and song creator, but the words and the lyrical ability to pen their realities into pictures that have life through rhymes, is essentially the MOST important element in Hiphop. I accept that many a rapper has this ability and lack the gift of making a GOOD SONG with melodies and good structure. Drake has those other qualities and as such is not automatically kicked out of the conversation of not being a talented artist. BUT that sincere factor, that lyrical ability and the fact that in hiphop your pen is your sword, THAT now is up in the air for him. Here is where I respectfully disagree with “40” who came out in Drake’s defense and stated that Drake is more than a rapper, and more of a creator and that the OVO team will not be stuck in the box of the mentality of hiphop that the artist must write their own rhymes. While this might be so, one is free to do as he/she wishes, but it does not change the CORE values and foundations of the art form. It’s almost an unwritten rule/requirement for being a great rapper. I am no Drake fan, post-So Far Gone. I thought Comeback Season and So Far Gone were damn near perfect projects, and I do like some tracks here and there over the years, I even found Know Yourself and 0 – 100 to be phenomenal records, but overall Drake’s content and hiphop persona is completely opposite to what resonates with me, and I personally find him to be an overrated emcee. Now that this Ghostwriting fiasco has surfaced, I hope other people begin to accurately rank Drake where he is supposed to be in the lyricist and emcee category. Continue to love his music, yes, and continue to buy is work, he does make good songs and is a talented artist, but please don’t put him in the conversation of “best rapper of our generation” or “on of the best rappers of all time” etc etc. Drake is a great icon and legend in music; his actual pen game and lyrical ability leaves a lot to be desired. We’ll see how this story continues to develop.
Aight enough on this, peace.
PS: Stop hating on Meek for being a real nigga and speaking his mind. I ain’t no Meek fan, but I respect him actually not giving a fuck and going against the conformist status quo of just keeping quiet for fear of other people chastising you etc. He felt that is another rapper don’t write his own raps, he shouldn’t be compared to him and rightfully so. It wasn’t simply because Drake didn’t “tweet his album”. Do your research.