The Ghostwriting phenomenon: when rappers do not write their own texts

The figure of the ghostwriter has always been much discussed in all the fields in which it has been present, from music to literature, above all for the question of the merits to be attributed to the authentic author of a work. The ghost of ghostwriting naturally could not but “hit” the rap, and some of the most famous hits of your favorite rappers may have been written by another unaccredited artist.

If in the United States the ghostwriting phenomenon has always been more or less accepted in a silent way, in Italy the story of the rapper who has someone else write the stanza is still taboo, even if in reality it is not even a phenomenon so widespread to be honest.

Remaining with the United States, however, there is a lot of meat on the fire, even if ghostwriters often pay a fee to maintain anonymity as well as their musical contribution, but when they discover that some of the greatest hits of your favorite rapper have been written by someone else it is normal that you stay a little hurt.

Don’t believe it? Then let’s try two examples: “Rappers Delight” from the Sugar Hill Gang and “Still Dre” by Dr. Dre were written by other people. The song on Sugar Hill was one of the first famous rap pieces but the signature is that of Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers, while as for “Still Dre” the rhymes are written instead by Jay-Z who besides the former NWA has also written for artists like Foxy Brown and Memphis Bleek.

We will not be here to debate how much the figure of the ghostwriter is ethically correct or not, but we will list some of the most sensational cases of the past and present, from the east to the west coast, from the best to the least good.

Method Man said in an interview that most of the rhymes in Ol ‘Dirty Bastard’s ReturnReturn to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version album come from the first rhymes of RZA and GZA, if not even from their freestyle battles. ODB took the rhymes of GZA and expressed them in his own way even if Method remembers that time when GZA talking with Ol ‘Dirty told him: “most of the things you say about your album are still mine!”.

One of Snoop’s hits of the last few years was definitely “Sensual Seduction”, but the iconic westcoast rapper took him a year to admit that the 2007 song was to be credited to Shawty Red who besides having produced the hit also has written the text. Subsequently the rapper Problem stated during a radio interview that he was the ghostwriter of Snoop Dogg for many songs from the albums Ego Trippin ‘, Menace n Wonderland and Doggumentary.

Although Eazy-E was the most important figure within the NWA, most of his songs were written by Ice Cube. As a true workaholic of rhymes, Ice Cube has influenced in a very important way not only the musical journey of Eazy-E but even that of the NWA, writing times, as well as rhymes for himself, even the texts of Dr. Dre and MC Ren in the records Panic Zone EP and Straight Outta Compton.


After a career paired with DJ Jazzy Jeff and a few hits like “Summertime” released in 1991, Will Smith rehearsed a solo career. Four years have passed between his last work with Jazzy Jeff and his first solo album, and rumors say his label, Columbia, considered Will Smith a bit rusty. So they have joined, to what later became more and more a movie star, a rapper from the Columbia roster: Nas. Mr Jones is the ghostwriting behind some songs like the famous “Gettin ‘Jiggy With It” but not only, during his career in fact, the NY rapper was also used as a ghostwriter by Dre, Foxy Brown and P. Diddy to name some.


Kanye West in the Ice-T documentary “The Art Of Rap” claims he never wrote his rhymes until his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This is a very strong statement, as the Chicago artist before MBDTF has released 4 albums with lots of hits. Among the ghostwriters used by Yeeze there are certainly Rhymefest who wrote entirely the first verse of “Jesus Walk” and Consequence that for better or worse has always put his own in all the first 4 Kanye albums.


He is perhaps one of the first celebrities of whom more or less publicly it was always known that he was not the author of his texts. The most striking fact is surely the song “I’ll Be Missing You” dedicated to his deceased friend The Notorious B.I.G. written not by Puff Daddy, P Diddy or whatever you want to call it, but by Sauce Money. Sean Combs has responded to all the criticisms that were moved with a rhyme in the song “Bad Boy For Life” where he said “don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write checks” (true Evidence?), Especially after the rapper Skillz in the song “Ghostwriter” named the artists to whom he wrote the rhymes as precisely P. Diddy, Foxy Brown, Mase, Will Smith and Jermaine Dupri.