Accusations of ghostwriting have plagued a number of high-profile MCs, but the implication this past week that Nas employed “leftist” rappers Jay Electronica and stic.man to ghostwrite several tracks on his 2008 LP Untitled have carried with them a greater weight than usual.
Though never one to snub the opportunity for a commercial cash-in, Nas still enjoys a reputation as a thinking man’s MC, perhaps not possessed of the agitprop fury of Dead Prez, but still willing to stick his fingers in some notable eyes. If Nas indeed called in Jay Electronica to help him craft his lyrical attacks against Fox News, then the resultant hit to Nas’s credibility will be even greater than it might have been to another MC who made no pretenses to artistry.
I’ve talked recently about the murky status of authenticity within the hip-hop world and over at HipHopDX, Omar Burgess has laid out an exhaustive argument for why Nas’s transgressions don’t damage his credibility, or really even count as transgressions.
To hear Burgess tell it, the line between “collaboration” and “ghostwriting” on hip-hop albums is often murky, though it’s a well-known fact that top hip-hop stars often borrow lyrical ideas from well-paid interlocutors.
Below are a few tracks from just such luminaries whose lyrical talents have been bolstered by hired guns. It remains an open question whether or not the ends justify the means.
“Gettin’ Jiggy Wit’ It” – Will Smith (1997)
Nas himself has taken a turn as a ghostwriter, earning a co-writer credit on Will Smith’s 1997 album Big Willie Style. While “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit’ It” offers little in terms of contribution to the genre of hip-hop, it is still an unbeatable pop culture curiosity.
“Come With Me” – Puff Daddy (1998)
Accusing P. Diddy (Sean Combs, Diddy, Puff Daddy, et al) of aping other peoples’ lyrics seems superfluous simply because the man has never made a secret about his desire to squeeze every possible dollar from his reputation and associations.
When Bad Boy MC Mark Curry wrote a scathing Jeremiad indicting Diddy’s use of ghostwriters (himself included), Diddy, along with most of his fans, simply shrugged off the evidence and kept right on trucking.
“Jesus Walks” – Kanye West (2004)
Though Yeezy has yet to officially resolve the controversy surrounding one of his biggest hits, Chicago MC Rhymefest insists, pretty credibly, that he wrote most of the lyrics to “Jesus Walks.”
“Queens Get the Money” – Nas (2008)
Jay Electronica is now claiming to have written this opening track from Nas’s 2008 LP, Untitled. Whether Jay “wrote,” “produced” or “collaborated” on the song remains unclear, but whatever the case, it casts the line, “N***as is still hatin’ / Talkin’ that Nas done fell off with rhyming” in an awkward light.