The Rise of the Ghostwriter
‘Don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write cheques;’ hip hop giant Diddy once famously described the benefit if using ghostwriters, such as Jadakiss, in his classic track ‘Bad Boy for Life.’ The music mogul is not alone in this practice, which was once frowned upon in the hip hop community; Brooklyn MC Dustorm began his career writing tracks for the late ODB, The D.O.C famously wrote for Dr Dre, whilst in more recent years Snoop Dogg admitted to using ghostwriters on his last album ‘Ego Tripping.’ The legendary Long Beach MC explained that ghostwriting was merely another way to introduce creative variety into a project.
The use of ghostwriters is fast-becoming accepted, even encouraged, in the urban music industry, as is evident by the success of R&B superstar Ne-Yo. When the artist released his first solo effort ‘In My Own Words’ in 2006, it soon reached platinum status, selling over 4 million copies worldwide; Ne-Yo’s style was a source of déjà-vu for many, perhaps as the singer-songwriter had already penned a number of R&B hits, including Mario’s ballad ‘Let Me Love You’ and Beyoncé’s smash ‘Irreplaceable.’ The lyricist is currently working on songs for a number of high-profile artists, such as Usher, Ciara, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Leona Lewis and Chris Brown.
Another ghost, who has been resurrected in the public eye, is R&B signer/songwriter The Dream, who wrote Rihanna’s hit single ‘Umbrella.’ After the success of the track, which was actually initially offered to Britney Spears amongst others, The Dream was signed to Def Jam and has enjoyed reasonable success due to a number of high-profile collaborations. Also behind a number of significant R&B hits, including J Holiday’s ‘Bed,’ Mary J Blige’s ‘Just Fine’ and Usher’s ‘Moving Mountains,’ The Dream has recently written for the likes of Diddy, Brandy, Ciara and Mariah Carey.
Many young urban artists could benefit from both ghostwriting or ‘vocal arrangement,’ which provides an opportunity to gain experience and perfect their style of writing, and ghostwriters, who can add diversity and new directions to a project. With the practice and its benefits becoming more-widely acknowledged in the industry, hopefully we will be seeing more ghosts stepping out from the shadows in the future of urban music.
© Hannah O’Connor (3threat Media)
Video: Ne-Yo sings ‘Irreplacable,’ which he wrote for Beyonce.
Video: The Dream’s Demo Version of ‘Umbrella’
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