“I’m so naive — I was under the impression that everyone wrote [their] own verses…I’ve stumbled and lived every word. Was I working just way too hard?” – Andre 3000 [Frank Ocean, Blonde – Solo (Reprise)]
Andre 3000 has been keeping to himself and enjoying life outside of the spotlight — after the Outkast Reunion Tour back in 2014, he went off the radar. Let’s be clear — he doesn’t just jump on anyone’s track and seems to be very selective about collaborations.
When Frank dropped Channel Orange in 2012, he laid down a verse on “Pink Matter” — one of the album’s shining, memorable moments. It was the type of verse that you immediately wanted to rewind over and over so that you could memorize it.
Years later, he teamed up with Frank Ocean yet again, for his latest album, Blonde (Solo – Reprise). “Three Stacks.” He had a lot to say about this generation’s music and rappers with ghostwriters. No names were called but he did not hold back when discussing people that basically spend money to impress other people, something that i’m sure we’ve all seen on social media.
“Tryna cut down on my spending
Regardless of winning, instead of pretending”
— Andre 3000 [Frank Ocean – Blonde, Solo (Reprise)]
During the 2014 OutKast reunion tours, he actually said that he “felt like a sellout” despite the positive reviews and excitement about the group’s return.
Within the same year, Questlove wrote multiple essays about consumerism and modern hip hop called “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems: How Hip-Hop Failed BlackAmerica, Part II.” In it, he discusses how Hip-Hop, which used to be about real storytelling, is now about flashing money, cars, jewelry etc.
“[The aspirational strain in African-American culture runs all the way back to slavery days. Slaves couldn’t own property because they were property. When freed, they were able to exist politically, and also economically…Hip-hop is about having things to prove you’re not a have-not; it works against the notion that you might have so little economic control that you would simply disappear.” – Questlove, How Hip-Hop Failed Black America (Essay Series)
Social media has become a platform to create the have-it-all image. It’s completely understandable for the authenticity of an artist to be questioned if they’re getting praised for music that they don’t write, while bragging about a lifestyle that is forced.
The thing is, are ghostwriters really…well, “ghosts” if they’re on the credits — public information that can accessed by anyone? I guess that they’re called “ghosts” because they’re not on the credits at all.
I feel similarly about R&B/Soul music. Some superstar singers are applauded for being incredible writers when they only tweaked one or two words of a song and put their name on the credits. There are albums that have been marketed to be the singer’s personal story but the words didn’t come directly from them. There are so many hits written by people that have not been properly credited and/or acknowledged.
It also has to do with the fact that raps are supposed to be an opportunity for you to flex your creativity and skill – on paper and off the top of your head. The comebacks, witty lines, metaphors etc. that should all come from you. It’s silly to think that rappers even use ghost-writers for diss tracks. When a rapper that is called out or speculated to have ghostwriters and they tell people that it’s all a lie, this could either mean two things: that they write their own raps or that they’re lying. Supporters buy an artist’s music because they believe that it’s the closest that they can get to them aside from seeing you in person.
What do you think? Is ghostwriting a big deal?