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Neuro
A champion of Kurtis SP


Joined: 19 Jul 2002
Posts: 7789
Nas' Ghostwriters  Reply with quote  

found this article and wanted to bring it over here, i know there are some nas fans here and i know a lot of you dont give a shit, but its still interesting to me

i never heard of the website either so i dunno , just wanted to read some opinions here

http://www.rappersiknow.com/2012/08/13/nas-lost-ghostwriters/


Autumn, but maybe Winter, 2007 was a weird time of life for me. I was one and a half years into my 4 year stint at HOT 97 where I would low key plot on how to somehow have whatever “backpacking” rapper I liked that quarter getting 150 spins a week (hey, I was young and naive, and didn’t understand what Radio Business was actually about). One of the gods had fallen.
The day Jay called me at work to tell me he was ghostwriting for Nas was a hard day for me. On one hand, I was happy that a friend of mine that seemingly no one cared an iota for a year or two prior was quickly ascending through the ranks of hip hop as a voice to pay attention to and a career in the making to watch. Earlier that summer we’d posted and artworked Act I and word was quickly spreading that he was a one to watch. Not too long after began that yearly teasing at Christmastime that Act II: The Pledge would be dropping for free as a download that would surely overload my server and shut down my site from traffic. It’s 2013 and we’re still waiting.
Since 1993, Nas has been (no pun intended, but I chuckled anyway) my barometer for what emceeing was supposed to sound like. Even with all the criticisms you could lob at him, whether it be his choice in beats or producers, The Bravehearts, faux mafioso rhymes, affinity for loose cannon women—any fan of Nas could always respond with “but he raps better than you(r favourite rapper), so what is we talkin’ bout?”, (basically a “but can you whoop my ass, though?” style of reasoning) and you’d pretty much be left alone. Where other MCs would have odd voices (Jay Z), gimmicky deliveries (Busta Rhymes), overwhelming rhyme patterns (Pharoahe Monch), or were more products of great marketing and affiliation than skill set (Biggie), Nas had that no nonsense, technically dense and descriptive style of writing, that somehow didn’t come across as dry as say a Gza might. Clearly this is all matter of personal taste. But for me, Nas was in that small pantheon of rappers, who when they rapped, there was no one else I would rather have rhyming at that moment. Big L, Pharoahe Monch, Snap, Posdnuos, DOOM, Mos Def/Yasiin Bey, Tash from The Liks, Pun, Sean Price, Black Thought. When these cats, rap, I just want everyone else to be quiet and let them do their thing. Each I like for different reasons, but when cats like Nas rap, it’s a beautiful use of the English language.
Most of the newer rappers that I like and have used this site and my countless hours of message board arguing and trolling to promote, with few exceptions (Baatin, ODB etc), are definitely branches off the Nas tree or at the very least come from the same same forest/school of rhyming that Nas does.
The crazy part for me was that the mythology of Nas being that 16 year old wunderkind, single handedly making an entire genre of music attempt to step up (with varying results) its lyrics amazed me. The production was no slouch either.

I don’t recall specific dates, because I actively avoided listening to any of it, but we were either at the tail end of or in the middle of the ringtone era when I got this call from Jay. Rapping was in bad shape on a mainstream level, and that’s why the New York DJs as I would witness for the months surrounding any new Nas release would be giddy as hell hoping that the Soulja Boy and Tity Boy songs they are handcuffed to play day in and day out, would come to some sort of balance when a new Nas single that would hit.
You gotta ask yourself, how many times has Nas let you down with a record, and yet you still check the next one? Here’s an equation for you.

X = Total Number of Nas Albums
Y = Illmatic
Z = How Many Times Let Down By Nas Albums
X – Y = Z

I’m good at maths.
You check because despite his inability to put together an album that’s pound for pound the quality you (perhaps irrationally) expect from him, at the end of the day he can still out rap the majority of other rappers with major label deals out there doing it.
But then I got a call from Jay telling me that he was ghost writing for Nas. What does that mean? What does that do to your legacy? What does that mean for any of your future recordings?
This is why, I say I am unmoved when I listen to a song where Nas is rapping positively about raising his daughter. After all, this is the same guy that has the absolute worst and most disturbing, while trying not to be, sex raps out; may I never hear another rhyme talking about pentagrams in a woman’s vagina or ass play with a beer bottle (“a real joker!”). No really, I’m good.
Or when, after wasting the bulk of his prime years rapping about ice, and cars, and women owing him like 40 acres to blacks over subpar and often trendy production, he turns around and is rapping about free masons and space ships while stutter stepping over verses penned by Jay Electronica in a cadence not his own, I’m confused.
When he finally has a half decent record like Life Is Good, how much can you really trust it? After 3 or 4 listens, I can hear at least 4 or 5 times where he’s woefully off beat or out of pocket with the music much like he was when rapping Jay’s lyrics in “Queens Get The Money.”
Is Nas just lazy?
When it’s public knowledge that the ‘greatest lyricist’ of our era, has ghost writers, what does that mean? Like, he has the ability to write crazy raps, but it’s like doping in the Olympics, how can we ever trust the good results again? This ain’t pop music, so it matters if you write your own raps or not. For at least 6 albums, that was the only currency Nas had; his lyrics. How long has he been using ghost writers?
I had an existential crisis that day. I was happy for Jay Elec, but he basically speared a childhood music hero and make a sock puppet out of him.

“Niggas is still Hatin’, talkin’ that ‘Nas fell off with rhymin’…”
You did Nas, you did.
I’ve been carrying this hurt for years now. I took that call from Jay down the hallway from HOT 97′s on-air studio overlooking Hudson St, 7 floors below me. Rap kind of died for me that day. Ironically, HOT 97′s tagline at the time was “Where Hip Hop Lives.”
Post Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:15 am
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anomaly
Loserface


Joined: 22 May 2008
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Location: DFW, TX
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This guy's thought process is all over the place and kind of hard to follow. It could have been a fraction of the length with less babble. I guess if I was a Nas fan, I'd have more to say on the topic.....
Post Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:35 am
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Mark in Minnesota



Joined: 02 Jan 2004
Posts: 2019
Location: Saint Louis Park, MN
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Fuck cults of personality.

I listen to hip-hop music because on the right day and in the right context it can: give me chills; stop me from hurting; make me smile; make me laugh; let me feel things I don't normally give myself permission to feel; amaze me; make me feel invincible; make me feel exceptional when I'm feeling ordinary; make me feel ordinary when I'm feeling like an outsider; say things for me better than I could say them; et cetera.

I don't listen to hip-hop so that I can tell people "my favorite rapper can serve your favorite rapper," although some of my favorite rappers probably could serve some of your favorite rappers. I don't listen to hip-hop so that I can be proud of my brand affiliations, although I am proud of some of those brand affiliations. I don't listen to hip-hop to be impressed by the talents of the performers, although some of those performers do have incredibly impressive talents.

I listen to hip-hop to feel something, or to let it say something to me. If it does that successfully, why does it matter who wrote it? If Nas did that for me, it wouldn't matter whether he was doing it by applying his talents to his own writing or by applying those talents and editorial voice to the writing of others.

One of my favorite pieces of art from any genre is BK-One's Set in Motion in which he uses samples from other sources (especially film) to piece together an essay about his relationship with music. The idea that I should like what that album has to say less because he used someone else's words to say parts of it is utterly foreign to me. So is the idea that I should think less of Richard Pryor because Paul Mooney wrote some of his jokes.

If some myth about the artist has to remain intact for you to continue liking the art, you're doing it wrong. That or the art wasn't very good in the first place.
Post Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:51 am
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Sarcastro



Joined: 27 Sep 2002
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He's right though, end of the day you always checked for Nas because he was THE great lyricist. He made Illmatic. He was what a rapper was supposed to rap like.

And he let you down more times than not, not in every song, but pretty much in every album.

A ghostwriter makes almost too much sense, he lost his drive way too early on.
Post Tue Aug 14, 2012 1:03 pm
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Neuro
A champion of Kurtis SP


Joined: 19 Jul 2002
Posts: 7789
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while i totally agree with what you said there mark, as i listen to music the same way, i cant help to put in other mcs to fill in that blank, WHAT IF mf doom was all ghostwritten, what if sage francis was all ghostwritten , what if aesop rock was all ghostwritten,what if immortal technique was, you have to admit it would feel a bit weird to know that and still enjoy it to the fullest, so what gives Nas that pass? also your example of bk one, hes a dj , he does get that pass to do that sorta stuff
Post Tue Aug 14, 2012 1:06 pm
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Mark in Minnesota



Joined: 02 Jan 2004
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Location: Saint Louis Park, MN
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I don't concede that point. In fact, I think giving DJs a pass for it but not giving rappers a pass for it is a form of special pleading. Dope art is dope art, and when we start talking about things like authenticity or honesty or honoring the spirit of the medium we're starting to talk about something other than art--which is fine, and maybe we even base some of our decisions about what art to consume on those external factors, but we need to be clear in our own minds, and in these kinds of discussions, that they are external factors.

A big part of the reason I'm a Sage Francis fan is because I appreciate how he chooses to curate the parts of his music which aren't under his control. Thoughtful integration of rock bands and backup vocalists into his live arrangements, his long-standing preference for working with a variety of different producers but still managing to put together albums that have one consistent sound to them... his art has always been, at least to some extent, about stitching together the work of others into something that feels like a single creative voice. I'm a Buddy Wakefield fan because of how Sage decided to use Buddy's poetry on Human the Death Dance. But, and this is important: I'm also a bigger Sage Francis fan because of how Sage decided to use Buddy Wakefield's poetry on Human the Death Dance.

The important thing is not who created individual components of a performance, the important thing is who has ultimate responsibility for the curation of content that resulted in the artistic work as a whole. Finding out after the fact that every one of those beautifully complex byzantine verse structures on an Aesop Rock album would not change the way I felt about the songs themselves, or about Aesop Rock as a brand.

These sorts of revelations about how the work was written might change the way I think about those artists as individuals, but as a fan of the art I'm not necessarily even entitled to a relationship with the individuals who make the work, even in my own mind. My relationship is with the body of work, not with the work's creator. It's important to me not to get that twisted around in my head.

I never understood why fans felt the right to feel outrage toward Slug when it came out that the childhood-loss narrative in Nothing But Sunshine was not autobiographical. That seems relevant to this discussion.

In the end, even if Nas has been using occasionally-strong ghostwriters instead of doing occasionally-strong writing of his own, it's still his reputation for occasionally putting strong writing to music that lives or dies with the actual quality of the resulting finished product.

If the essay was trying to make the argument that the quality of Nas albums has suffered because Nas doesn't perform on ghostwritten material as well as he performs on material he wrote himself, I might be willing to entertain an argument that Nas should, for the sake of his art, go back to writing his own material. That's not the argument that was made here, though. The argument was that our perception of Nas albums retroactively suffers from the revelation that ghostwriters were involved with the process for essentially the same reason that our perception of Olympic-caliber performances suffers from the revelation that the athletes were doping.

I do not accept that argument. We oppose doping in sport because we want a level playing field between athletes, and because allowing some athletes to voluntarily risk their long-term health for short-term gains would create an implicit expectation that all athletes at that level need to take those same risks if they want to remain competitive.

There is no equivalent purity-of-art argument to be made with rappers employing ghostwriters. The closest I can really come is the battle circuit, and once we get into that discussion we're starting to judge things on criteria other than artistic merit.

If believing that Nas wrote his material himself changes the way you see his music for the better, you've been giving his music a pass it wouldn't deserve even where he did write the lyrics himself.
Post Tue Aug 14, 2012 2:49 pm
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tommi teardrop



Joined: 12 Apr 2007
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Mark in Minnesota wrote:
If the essay was trying to make the argument that the quality of Nas albums has suffered because Nas doesn't perform on ghostwritten material as well as he performs on material he wrote himself, I might be willing to entertain an argument that Nas should, for the sake of his art, go back to writing his own material. That's not the argument that was made here, though. The argument was that our perception of Nas albums retroactively suffers from the revelation that ghostwriters were involved with the process for essentially the same reason that our perception of Olympic-caliber performances suffers from the revelation that the athletes were doping.
I read it more as:

"Nas has always put out inconsistent and questionable material, and this revelation that he uses ghostwriters is the icing on the cake that shows us part of the reason why his shit has been lackluster. It's not the shitty beat selection or subject matter. It's that he is not a good enough writer to consistently put out albums with good verses. Otherwise why would he now need a ghostwriter?"

And regarding ghostwriting in general, part of it is just expectations. We expect, when listening to lyrically lyrical rappers, that they are the ones writing the lyrics. Part of that is because of the bragging nature of many of these raps. If you are the illest, why are you not ill enough to write your own raps?

There are some rappers, who we do not think of as these geniuses on the mic, who we could care less if they used ghostwriters. Dre, Kanye, Puff, Biz. None of us were ever blown away enough by these guys' rhymes to really give a fuck if they wrote their raps.

But if we find out that Rakim, Breeze Brewin, Bun B, Nas are using ghostwriters, we get let down. Even if those guys play a huge part in the production of their albums, the contribution that most of us really look forward to, are the verses themselves. And if it doesn't/shouldn't matter, as you claim, why is it hush hush? Why doesn't Nas just put "featuring a verse written by Jay Electronica," under the song?

Why is there even a term for it, like "ghostwriting?" We don't say that Tarantino ghostwrote Travolta's dialogue. He just wrote it. The ghost part of it comes from people wanting the writing credit to go to them even when another person wrote it.

We want rappers to be confident, not ashamed. If you are perpetrating the fraud that you actually wrote your verse when you didn't, it comes off as suspect. It just does.

And regarding Slug, I think it’s understandable for our perception of the song to change when we find out it’s partly fiction. Even for myself, I remember finding out that it was fiction and it losing a bit of it’s impact. I would feel the same way if I found out that Game's dad didn’t really need a needle. Those verses are presented as autobiographical within a genre that is largely autobiographical to begin with.

There's nothing wrong with them being fictional, but there's also nothing wrong with people reacting differently to them when they discover the fact vs. fiction.
Post Tue Aug 14, 2012 4:56 pm
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Mark in Minnesota



Joined: 02 Jan 2004
Posts: 2019
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If my brain worked like that the world would feel like a much less beautiful place. From where I'm sitting it looks like you people are cheating yourselves.
Post Tue Aug 14, 2012 6:11 pm
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pedavis



Joined: 03 May 2007
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Nas keeps trying, but I've still never listened to illmatic. just to spite Nas.
Post Tue Aug 14, 2012 6:50 pm
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SFR announcement



Joined: 26 Jul 2004
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pedavis wrote:
Nas keeps trying, but I've still never listened to illmatic. just to spite Nas.


I've got a beautiful nose but an ugly face. I cut off my nose to spite it. YOLO!
Post Tue Aug 14, 2012 6:53 pm
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seandaley
passive aggressifist


Joined: 13 Jan 2003
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some people were totally let down when they found out that slick rick hadn't even been to jail yet, much less raped in jail, prior to penning the song "the moment i feared."


i laugh quietly but out loud at the idea of rap ever being regarded as "largely autobiographical to begin with."

don't drink the shasta.
Post Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:01 pm
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Prontoid



Joined: 07 Aug 2002
Posts: 1609
Location: Melbourne, Australia
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seandaley wrote:
some people were totally let down when they found out that slick rick hadn't even been to jail yet, much less raped in jail, prior to penning the song "the moment i feared."


i laugh quietly but out loud at the idea of rap ever being regarded as "largely autobiographical to begin with."

don't drink the shasta.


What are you on about ? You were dead to me when I found out your parents didn't die when you were a kid and in fact you weren't raised by your uncle, I still cry myself to sleep over being misled.
Post Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:04 pm
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seandaley
passive aggressifist


Joined: 13 Jan 2003
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walking dead since 1998
Post Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:17 pm
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Neuro
A champion of Kurtis SP


Joined: 19 Jul 2002
Posts: 7789
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yeah but slug still wrote that himself (right?) , it was your(or whoevers) fault for misinterpreting it, same with the slick reference, what if not only it wasnt "true" but it wasnt even written by him

listen, i am still going to enjoy nas' music , and i really do understand the points that are being made , im just sayin OK so what if you found out slug didnt write your favorite verses/songs from your favorite album,or what if none of it was written by him at all , you wouldnt be let down by that? c'mon really?

what if sage francis didnt really write Best of times, you are telling me you wouldn't care ?

it seems different if the song he wrote wasn't about himself or about what you thought, compared to if he didnt even write it at all

then the next question is.... so how far does ghostwriting go? is it just stuff written by said artist then a ghostwriter comes in and alters it to make it better ,taking information and applying it to make it what it needs to be,or is it complete songs written top to bottom to give to a rapper to spit
Post Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:45 pm
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Prontoid



Joined: 07 Aug 2002
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Yer just read all these posts. The Infamous is probably one of my top 5 hiphop albums, I think 90% of it is bullsh1t but that is completely irrelevant to my enjoyment of it...Are you mad at Keith because Dr Doom/Octagon is not realistic? I love these albums....

I think the fault is on you the listener and your expectations, not on the artist

I remember back in 2004-07 when Wheezy was super prolific imagining a bunch of nerds with google and laptops just punching out rhyme after rhyme for him to spit...DOOM uses rhyming dictionary's, you mad at him for that?

And do we really care in 2012 whether dudes are using ghostwriters, I'd probably be more surprised if you posted something that said "Nas wrote every single rhyme he's ever spit"..

and poor Nas, how can the dude move on from something that happened in '93 that most likely involved Q-Tip, Large Pro and a team of dudes who were probably heavily involved in editing and writing as well (pure speculation on my behalf but I gaurantee you he had help writing Illmatic, theres no doubt)
Post Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:59 pm
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