The recent beef between hip-hop artists Meek Mill and Drake has brought up an age-old stigma that’s older than hip-hop itself: ghostwriting.
In this case, ghostwriting is the practice of a musician using lyrics or music that was written by a freelancer or some other musician, usually in exchange for money. The ghostwriter sacrifices all credit of his or her original work to the musician.
It might sound odd, but it’s actually a very common and lucrative practice among a wide variety of freelance writers, according to freelancewriting.com. The practice has existed in the music industry, including the hip-hop industry, for a very long time. An article by The Daily Beast reveals that the practice of ghostwriting has been ingrained in hip-hop from the days of Eazy-E and Notorious B.I.G. to the rappers of today’s music scene.
So if it’s such a common practice, why is it such a big deal? Writers and musicians have been trading, borrowing and buying from the works of others since humankind has put pen to paper, or mouth to microphone.
Before writing this, the idea of ghostwriting itself, particularly in music, didn’t sit well with me. Maybe this is reflective of my personal music taste — I tend to avoid popular music, commercial radio and Top 40 music lists like the plague.
In any event, the idea of passing off the work of others and claiming it as your own just seemed wrong. As a passionate writer whose earliest days involved producing poetry — which some would argue runs hand-in-hand with hip-hop and music lyrics in general — I’ve always believed that, in terms of talent and creativity, you should be credited and respected for the original work that you put out.
Yet as I looked more into ghostwriting, I began to understand the need and demand for it in terms of ghostwriters and the various industries that they serve. I mention various industries because ghostwriting exists in pretty much anything that needs a writer, including television shows, advertisements, academia and even law.
Making a living from writing can be extremely difficult, however, with an average annual salary of $78,000, according to job website indeed.com, ghostwriting can be a potentially profitable gig. At the end of the day, the writer is getting paid — rather well I might add — for doing something he or she enjoys. Plus, the industry these writers serve is getting something down on paper that it needs written. In some cases, ghostwriters are even given credit.
From another perspective, ghostwriters may not have the desire to be famous. They want their words out there, but have no desire to live the life of a celebrity, a sentiment to which I can relate completely.
After looking at it from multiple angles, my personal views of ghostwriting went from what’s wrong to what’s right.
It’s a win-win situation for both parties, and it’s been around forever. Why make a fuss about it?
Eric Gutierrez is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter @atticus_adrift or email him at EricG@CentralFloridaFuture.com.