so...apparently Nas' name came up in the latest ghostwriting exposé.
folks are upset.
me? not so much.
a disclaimer: i've always been more partial to R&B than hip hop, mainly because singers were more accessible. my mom pretty much hated rap and thought it was all flin flarn filth, so i didn't start buying hip hop until, say, 8-10th grade when i had a bit more autonomy. although i love it and see it as a part of the fabric of my generation, i accept that i don't "care" enough about this kind of stuff to be angry, or even disappointed.
in most other music, we've come to accept that the greatest lyricists/songwriters are not always the great performers, and vice versa. the great Black music houses employed songwriting teams whose names were often only bandied about by musicologists and die hard fans. everyone else was focused on the performers.
i didn't know until i was half grown that one of my favorite vocalists, Luther Vandross, built a stellar career remaking other people's hit songs. i never heard him called a fraud. on the contrary, even folks who remembered the originals often preferred Luther's versions. put simply: no matter what he sang, no one sang it like he did.
at its inception, hip hop was the next phase of Black music in America (by way of Jamaica). the genre grew and expanded as its listeners and performers did. it wasn't like there was an emcee program at Julliard teaching the fine arts of cadence and metaphor.
in the main, hip hop was built on pure, raw talent--a voice of urban youth. it did not emerge from a movement of "trained" musicians or artists. (note: there were--and are--exceptions. and Nas' father is a musician in his own right). to me, that suggests a naturally collaborative atmosphere: i can write the rhymes, but you flow better...and neither of us is dope with the beats, so...
given the output expected of signed artists, how would most manage to write every rhyme, every single time, on their own, from lived experience--no matter how gritty? genius-level output doesn't happen every day, or even every generation. by the odds, it makes sense that occasionally someone would write a few bars for someone else.
folks would probably argue that you "always" know who wrote a song, but ghostwriters get no credit. well, i'm sure someone got a paycheck. besides, have any of us figured out all of Prince's aliases yet? there's plenty of stuff that's been done for the love, the exposure, insiders, or all of the above.
any art form carries a standard of authenticity, and some are going to take that standard more seriously than others. it's the constant battle between the sell-outs and the real heads. fortunately or unfortunately, that's led to the obfuscation of certain information in hip hop circles.
bottom line: can many emcees flow like Nas? no.
plus, it isn't as if he never proved his capability. if he let someone else do some heavy lifting for a bit, so be it. according to author of the article, the ghostwritten items never worked as well as his own stuff, so maybe this will push Nas to some new, better work.
but all this lamenting around "keeping it real"?
stop it, b.