So Nas Might Have Used A Ghostwriter. So What?

nas_blueandorange.jpg
Earlier this week, one tweet and one blog post alleging that Nas had used ghostwriters—specifically, Jay Electronica and stic of Dead Prez—on his 2007 album Untitled. The tweet, by Jay-Z biographer dream hampton, came first; after that, former Hot 97 art director Frank William Miller Jr. (a.k.a. FWMJ) detailed a 2007 phone conversation in which Jay Electronica informed him that he was indeed writing for Nas' controversial Untitled album.

Hardcore rap fans expressed disbelief, weeping, and fury, aiming hundreds of pitchforks at FWMJ's twitter account. How could one of rap's great lyricists relegate himself to using a ghostwriter—the performance-enhancing drug of hip-hop? This is a cardinal sin!

Or is it?

First, let's apply a few caveats to this revelation. hampton's tweet came in response to someone questioning Jay-Z's reluctance to make a scathing political album on the level of Nas' Untitled. (Although Watch The Throne's "hey I'm rich and black and America probably doesn't like that" was a good start.) Hampton is Jay-Z's biographer, so she has a dog in the race. While she's one of the pioneers of hip-hop journalism, she isn't exactly an unbiased defender of Jay in the unending Jay-Z vs. Nas debate. Meanwhile, FWMJ was one of the first guys to mention Jay Electronica and follow his music. So he has a clear desire to support his former pet project.

But these biases are only secondary compared to the biggest red light in the whole story: Jay Electronica. While I have no doubt Jay Electronica made the call, the validity of his claim has to come into question. He's known for making promises and declarations about upcoming projects that never see the light of day, so the phrase "I got a call from Jay Electronica" entering any story calls it into question. In his defense, though, Jay sent out a semi-non-committal tweet about the whole situation, saying "Nas is one of the Greatest Ever. never has and never will need a ghostwriter. that man's pen and legacy is without question." Nas himself, last week , denied ever using a ghostwriter.

And if the denials aren't true... so what?

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13 comments
MannyFaces
MannyFaces

Eh. Not so fast. The "sin" in this case would be exasperated by the fact that Nas was known for, in fact, revered much more for his lyricism than most MCs, including the prominent users of ghostwriters you mentioned. There is a sharper distinction between collaborating, even co-writing, and ghostwriting, which was the alleged charge. Whether it happened or not, may be debatable, despite the denials by those involved, but if it were, the fact that it would (and should) fundamentally change the legacy of Nas unfortunately may be less debatable. I think that, as an analogy, if it came out that any number of authors for instance, particularly those known for their writing prowess, were in fact not the majority author of one or several of their books, one might not be suggesting, as you do, that people just get over it. 

LAWeeklyMusic
LAWeeklyMusic editortopcommenter

Ice Cube definitely didn't write all of N.W.A's lyrics. He was gone after Straight Outta Compton, for one thing, but even on that album D.O.C. did lots of ghostwriting.

Ted Jackins
Ted Jackins

Dan, hip hop is music and music is art. I think it's a negative thing for him to have done so considering he is a great mc and writes great lyrics himself, he shouldn't need someone else to do that for him.

Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly

No one ever seemed to care that Christina Aguilera or Pink or other singers don't write their own songs. Maybe if more rappers used writers there'd be more great hip hop songs & artists like Jay-Z wouldn't have 3 albums with the same name that all sound the same & are about a life he hasn't lived in 20+years

Dan Grossman
Dan Grossman

I thought The Village Voice covered the arts. What the hell is this?

ReedFischer
ReedFischer

Far better than having a ghost-wronger.

ShermanHelms
ShermanHelms

@DavidDTSS aye homie nice little article. congrats on gettin published in the Voice too

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