The New World of Ghostwriting

By Jesse (Rap-Rebirth.com)  |  02/16/2010

GhostwritingThis is a piece written by Rap-Rebirth.com founder, Jesse, who makes a living from ghostwriting. His site is where the hub of his business comes from. He penned this piece about the modern day world of the ghostwriting, and his experience with selling his service online.

For those who don't know, ghostwriting is when someone anonymously writes an artist's lyrics. It's been part of hip-hop for many years. Big Daddy Kane wrote for Biz Markie, Jay-Z wrote for Foxy Brown, Nas wrote for Will Smith, and Skillz wrote for well, almost everyone. Until recently, ghostwriting occurred in backrooms through personal networks and was rarely acknowledged. The idea that a rapper didn't write their own lyrics was stigmatized and the use of ghostwriters was kept secret. This was because a large part of hip-hop's legacy is based on individual expression. If a rapper's using someone else's lyrics, then they were perceived to be less real.

In 2010, things have changed. The Internet and online social networking have allowed people to meet and collaborate over great distance. Everything has become a joint effort. We've all become interconnected and our experiences are shared. Producers and rappers can now exchange beats and vocals without ever meeting. A rapper can "outsource" their entire album online. Without leaving home, they can buy guest appearances, instrumentals and now lyrics. The rapper supplies the creative vision (like a movie director or producer) and various support crew fill in the missing pieces (like a movie screenwriter or cinematographer). The idea that ghostwritten lyrics are fake has been replaced with the idea that they're a collaborative transmutation of the rapper's original intent.

I started my ghostwriting business a couple years ago at the beginning of this transformation. I'd been writing for years and saw an opportunity to turn a hobby into something real. Instead of taking the traditional path of networking at concerts and sending out letters to established rappers, I built my own site. I put up samples of my lyrics, bought some basic web advertising, and posted on hip-hop message boards. The response I got was overwhelming. There was a huge untapped market of MCs looking for lyrics. I heard from MySpace rappers, YouTube rappers, local stars, posse members, international rappers, and a few established acts. Suddenly it was alright to hire a writer and the internet made it easy.

A lot of people are curious how it works. First, the artist contacts me and gives me some personal information. They tell me about their world, their slang, their favorite subject matter, their artistic influences and about their friends, family and enemies. Then I send them a sample verse to make sure I have their style down and that they feel properly represented. After that, they may request a verse, a song, or even a whole album. Payments are made in advance through PayPal.

So the big question is, "is this good for hip-hop?" My answer is yes. It absolutely is. Rapping is now open to so many more people. An up-and-coming rapper might have good flow and delivery, but struggle with writing. Now he can buy lyrics and express himself. A veteran rapper with writer's block may not release an album for years. Now he can buy lyrics and put out new songs for his fans. The range of available music is now much wider because there are less barriers to becoming an MC. This is great for fans because it provides more variety. It also ensure the quality of lyrics can be top notch, a win for fans as well.

Finally ghostwriting allows a greater degree of collaboration. Something special happens when creative minds get together. The sum of the work they create is greater than its parts. Ghostwriting allows each person to do what they do best and thus creates a more compelling work of art.

For more from Jesse, visit his official website at Rap-Rebirth.com.