29 September 2010

INTERVIEW: Is There Anything Wrong with Ghost Writing in Hip Hop?

“S. Carter, ghost writer, and for the right price I can even make yo sh-t tighter.” – Jay Z
Ghost writing in hip hop is a cardinal sin…right? I mean, no one cares if Mary J. Blige or Beyonce wrote their own songs but how would you feel if you found out your favorite MC had never wrote a single line he spit? Well, regardless of how people in hip hop circles feel, more rappers are using ghost writers nowadays more then ever. So, is there anything REALLY wrong with ghost writing in hip hop? Well, I had a chance to sit down with Rap Rebirth, a ghost writing service to kick it and find out exactly how the entire ghost writing business works, check it out.

How did Rap Rebirth get started?

I’ve been a fan of hip hop my whole life. In middle school I spent days listening to the classics. I started with what was popular at time. “Blackout”, “Life and Times of Sean Carter: Vol 2″, “The Slim Shady LP”, “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot”, and “The Chronic 2001″. That was Hip Hop 101 for me. Then I graduated to “Illmatic”, “ATLiens”, “The Infamous”, “Low End Theory”, “Liquid Swords”, “Reasonable Doubt”, “Paid in Full” and other classics. I’d study the lyrics as I listened. By the time I hit high school I was an expert in rap. I could quote almost any lyric and tell you every album in an artist’s catalog. I was bumping so much music that writing came naturally. I developed by imitating my favorite MCs. I’d write verses as Nas, Slick Rick, Rakim, and Jay-Z. Incidentally this was great practice for ghostwriting.

In college I was writing lyrics at a high level. I started sharing them and got a lot of positive feedback. At the same time I was studying Entrepreneurship so I decided to start a ghostwriting service. Putting together my love of hip hop and love of business made sense. And ghostwriting was attractive because I could do it on the side and do it
anywhere. Of course I tried to land the big artists at first. I’d send out lyrics and make phone calls to labels. I must’ve called Diddy’s New York office a hundred times.

Then one night I was checking out a show with local acts and it hit me. There was more money to be made with a large clientele of up and coming rappers than trying to hit the lottery with a big name. I put up a website called Ethereal Scribe that would later become Rap Rebirth. I developed a marketing strategy to target developing acts that were trying to get signed. Some of it involved networking at concerts. But most of it was online through Google AdWords, Facebook, and MySpace. Client by client I built a business. Referrals were key to getting larger acts and growing.

Nowadays there seems to be more ghostwriting going on in hip hop more
then ever. What do you attribute that to?

It’s a few things. One, it’s easier to collaborate. With online social networking, virtual studios and broadband you can outsource your entire album. Often producers and rappers never meet. They trade tracks through email. The same thing happens with lyrics, only it’s even easier. Plus a lot of rappers want who use ghostwriters want to stay anonymous and the internet makes that easy. Two, it’s the decline of record sales. Labels want big hits. They want high margins. Rappers are under a lot of pressure. Hiring a ghostwriter to help make that perfect hit becomes attractive. Three, there’s been a gradual change in the perception of ghostwriting. More and more people see it as a collaboration. It used to be frowned upon now it’s encouraged.

Writing rhymes in general is a very tedious task. How are you able to
write so many rhymes while also tailor making the lyrics to a person’s
specific style? Do you have a staff of writers?

I understand writing rhymes for some people is tedious. That’s part of why we’re in business. But I love writing rhymes, for me it’s a joy. When I’m in a zone the lyrics flow easily. Of course there are lots of revisions that go
back and forth with the clients. That takes time. But overall I’m very efficient. And I’m involved with every project that comes in. That said there are trusted writers that help out during busy times and with certain projects.

When Skillz came out with “Ghostwriter” hip hop heads were in a frenzy to
find out who Skillz was talking about. Do you find that confidentiality is
very important for your clients?

There’s a live version of the first verse where he actually says the names! It’s crazy. I think Skillz is a very talented rapper and writer. I look forward to his wrap up tracks every year. And I don’t know Skillz personally or the details of the “Ghostwriter” situation. BUT. I don’t think he should have revealed the names. That’s a cardinal sin in ghostwriting.
Nothing is more important than trust. Clients need to know they can trust you. It’s more important than skills or reliability. If they think for a second you’re looking to exploit them or gain fame off their name they’ll run for the hills. Being trustworthy is good business. A reputation for confidentiality helps a ghostwriter land big clients. They’re the ones especially concerned with keeping things on the DL.

Who is your favorite MC? And how would you feel if you found out that
they had a ghostwriter their entire career?

Interesting question. Nas is my favorite MC. If I found out he had a ghostwriter since “Live at the BBQ” it’d surprise me. His music is so personal and he has such a strong reputation for being a writer. Plus he ghostwrites for artists himself. I’d be curious to know who the writer is and what their dynamic’s like. It’s funny cuz Nas toys with that idea on the track “Death Anniversary.” He says “What if Jungle wrote my shit, and I’m really illiterate – and the whole Nas catalog was just an experiment.”

What is the best way for someone to contact you if they needed your

They can visit the site http://www.rap-rebirth.com, send an email to
info@rap-rebirth.com, or through Twitter @RapRebirth.

Taken from Couch Sessions

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...