10 Rap Hits and Their Ghostwriters
Lil Kim during The 44th Annual Grammy Awards.
Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images
When Meek Mill “outed” Drake’s ghostwriter (co-writer?), it resurrected the age-old debate over ghostwriting. The debate intensified after fans heard a reference track for Drake’s “10 Bands” bearing the voice of an obscure Atlanta rapper named Quentin Miller. Drake fans had more questions than answers.
Miller allegedly ghostwrote Drake’s Toronto anthem, “Know Yourself.” Although he denied ghostwriting for Drake, he did hint that they’ve “collaborated” on songs.
The reality remains that ghostwriting is still a taboo in hip-hop. Yet, some of the most popular rap songs over the years wouldn’t have been possible without ghostwriters.
In honor of the silent pen pushers, here are 10 rap songs you know and the ghostwriters behind them.
Foxy Brown – “Get Me Home”
Foxy Brown’s confidence and seductive mic presence are undeniably hers. To complete the package, Fox Boogie tapped Jay Z’s songwriting services for her debut album, Ill Na Na. Jigga wrote or co-wrote nearly every song on Ill Na Na, including this runaway smash “Get Me Home.”
Lil Kim – “Crush on You” (Ft. Lil Cease)
Artist: Lil Kim
Song: “Crush on You”
We know Cam’ron is a skilled MC. But who knew Killa Cam was also slinging rhymes on the side? Turns out the Harlem rapper originally wrote “Crush on You” for Lil Kim’s Junior M.A.F.I.A comrade/fellow Lil’ person, Lil Cease.
“What happened was, Un [producer Lance Rivera of the famous Jay Z stabbing incident] gave Mase $30,000 to write five songs for Lil’ Cease at that time and Mase gave me $5,000 of the 30 to write one or two of the songs,” Cam explained to XXL. “I wrote the ‘Crush on You’ song and they ended up keeping it for Lil’ Kim album but it was really for Lil’ Cease. The original ‘Crush on You’ is all Lil’ Cease, Lil’ Kim isn’t even on the record.”
Eazy E – “Boyz N the Hood”
Artist: Eazy E
Song: “Boyz N the Hood“
Ghostwriter: Ice Cube
Eazy E is one of the few rappers who blatantly copped to lyrics-farming. “Ice Cube writes the rhymes that I say,” he proudly proclaimed on N.W.A.’s “8 Ball.” “Boyz N the Hood” merits inclusion though, seeing as it’s Eazy’s most memorable individual performance. Just one of the numerous examples of another rapper helping create a peer’s landmark hit.
Will Smith – “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”
Artist: Will Smith
Song: “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It“
Ghostwriter: Nas (co-writer)
Although Nas is often credited as the ghost behind Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” Esco says he only said a a line or three. “I hung out with Will in the studio,” Nas said during his Reddit AMA. “I watched him write it. It was a fun studio session, and I said a line or two or three to him. It wasn’t that serious. Will Smith wrote that song. But seriously, I watched him have fun making that record on his own, and Will is a true MC.”
Nas is a humble guy.
On a related note, Nas was also behind Big Willie’s “Yes, Yes Y’all,” “Miami” and “Chasing Forever.”
Biz Markie – “Vapors”
Artist: Biz Markie
Ghostwriter: Big Daddy Kane
Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie were best of friends in the 1980s. Biz helped Kane become a better performer. In return, Kane supplied the Human Beatbox with a string of hits. Kane authored the first five songs on Biz Markie’s outstanding LP, Goin’ Off. Most notable among them is “Vapors.” “Writing for Biz wasn’t really about having hot rhymes,” Kane told HipHopDX. “It was about having something funny, Biz just wanted something funny to say. ”
Lil Kim – “Queen B—”
Artist: Lil Kim
Song: “Queen Bee”
Ghostwriter: The Notorious B.I.G.
Everyone knows The Notorious B.l.G. wrote rhymes for Lil Kim. But “Queen B–” is worth highlighting because you can actually hear the reference track with Biggie’s vocals intact. You haven’t fully lived until you’ve heard Biggie refer to himself with the female pronoun while rhyming about his lady parts.
Dr. Dre – “Still D.R.E.”
Artist: Dr. Dre
Song: “Still D.R.E.”
Ghostwriter: Jay Z
Dr. Dre treats songs like products, inviting input from different writers and producers in a bid to create the perfect piece. For the comeback anthem “Still D.R.E.,” Dre called on the services of one Shawn Carter, who turned in an instant hit.
Diddy – “I’ll Be Missing You” Ft. Faith Evans
Song: “I’ll Be Missing You”
Ghostwriter: Sauce Money
“I’ll Be Missing You,” a tribute to Biggie Smalls, features Puff Daddy, Biggie’s wife Faith Evans and 112. Puffy’s verse was ghostwritten by former Jay Z associate Sauce Money. Ancillary tidbit: Sting earns an estimated $2000 a day from the song, since Puff Daddy didn’t say “please” before cribbing The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” sample.
Dr. Dre – “Nuthin’ But a G Thang”
Artist: Dr. Dre
Song: “Nuthin’ But a G Thang“
Ghostwriter: The D.O.C.
The D.O.C. was billed as one of the most promising west coast MCs before a car accident destroyed his vocal chords. His penmanship on “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” proved that the wreck didn’t destroy his creative skills. D.O.C. also wins the award for The Most Self-Congratulatory Line on a Ghostwritten Song Ever: “Like my n—a D.O.C., no one can do it better.”
Kanye West – Jesus Walks
Artist: Kanye West
Song: “Jesus Walks“
Ghostwriter: Rhymefest (co-writer)
Like most ghostwriters, Rhymefest is reluctant to take credit for his work on “Jesus Walks.” He was humble and coy when I asked him about it years ago: “Jesus Walks” is a song that is neither my creation nor Kanye West ’s creation. It was given to us by the Creator and we were used as a vehicle. So, for me to say “I did this much, he did that much” would be kind of selfish,” he said.
Still, ‘Fest walked away with a Grammy for his part. And that was before he dropped his first album. Not too shabby.