December 30, 2018

Ghostwriting: Art or plagiarism?

Rafi Colton-Max ‘21

Image result for ghost writing

People have enjoyed music for thousands of years. Whether it’s the catchy melodies of a song, the beat behind it, the vocals, the instrumentation or many other possible reasons, it is safe to say that music does not seem like it’s going away soon. With the rise of the internet, the start of different streaming services and social media, the outreach and accessibility of music is at an all-time high.
While there are many favorite genres of music over time, there has been no doubt that since its creation, hip-hop is one of the most widely listened. Whether it’s Brooklyn’s underground rap scene, West Coast indie hip-hop, SoundCloud rappers, Trap or even British Grime music, it’s hard to argue that hip-hop’s groundbreaking music production, famous media figures and catchy melodies make it the modern day face of the music industry. However, with it’s steady rise to fame, there have also been many different controversies along with it.
While some hip-hop artists and producers have made their way into legal trouble, a phenomenon in hip-hop that a majority of people believe is stripping artists of their street credit and artistic integrity: ghostwriting.
Ghostwriting is when a popular artist uses another person’s – a ghostwriter’s – words and lyrics as their own while giving no credit to the original writer and pretending as if these words were their own. Just as the reasons why artists employ ghostwriters are varied, so to are Golda Och students’ opinions on the matter.
“Ghostwriting does not sacrifice an artist’s integrity because the artist is still using his or her abilities to take a series of words and turn them into a good song,” junior Ethan Steinberg said.
Others, like sophomore Noah Feldman, are firmly against the practice.
“Ghostwriting allows an artist to pretend to have written amazing lyrics,” Feldman said, “and them not telling their fans makes a rapper lose all street credit and seem less genuine to their audience.”
While there are many different beliefs of how ghostwriting affects a musicians artistic integrity from both sides of the spectrum, Eminem summarized how rap legends feel about ghostwriting by saying that he would “rather quit rapping than use ghostwriters.”
Many rappers dominant in the early 2000s and late 1990s have spoken out against using ghostwriters and many fans believe an artist is unable to be considered one of the best rappers of all time if they do not write their lyrics.
Kanye West, one of the most influential and popular hip-hop icons of all time, has used ghostwriting throughout his career and many other artists are not happy about it. In Drake’s “Duppy Freestyle,” Drake said “he has done things for [West], that he thought he would never need” and noted in a later interview that he wrote the lyrics to a good portion of West’s album, “Ye.”

While there are many different beliefs on how ghostwriting affects an artist and their career, if an artist uses ghostwriters it is safer to announce to the public that they did so, being honest with their fan bases and with hip-hop itself.

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