Nas, Ghostwriting and Hip-Hop 'Authenticity'

Nas (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Nas (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

At HipHopDX, Omar Burgess breaks down the fact and fiction behind the minor uproar surrounding allegations that Jay Electronica and of Dead Prez ghostwrote parts of Nas' untitled 2008 album.

I think there's a pretty significant gap between what the general public knows about ghostwriting and how we perceive the sometimes-collaborative process of crafting Hip Hop songs. As it concerns Nas, here's what we know for sure about his work with and Jay Electronica. Both artists are listed in the album's official production credits — Electronica is listed as the sole producer of "Queens Get The Money," while is credited for "We're Not Alone," "Untitled," and "Sly Fox." While he denies ever having an outright ghostwriter, Nas has more or less corroborated's claims of being open to collaboration while writing …

And that's where things get murky. As the name implies, ghostwriters are often unaccredited. And there's a grey area between rappers bouncing ideas off of each other as opposed to just hand delivering a verse for another artist to rhyme verbatim as Sean Combs by his own admission often does. One of the reasons this story is causing such a stir is because Hampton and FWMJ are totally credible sources. I personally believe both of their accounts, and neither gains anything by making this up. Most of us have never heard and never will hear the aforementioned reference tracks or the call with Jay Electronica. And honestly, even if I heard them, I don't like the album any more or less. Even the most objective narrative is framed in some way, shape or form. That's no slight against FWMJ or Hampton. It's just the nature of anything you hear secondhand. To me, that's the part of this whole thing that's most interesting. The thought of Nas being at worst a recipient of ghostwritten rhymes or at best, a somewhat passive collaborator strikes a nerve for two main reasons. First, many Nas fans have an unrealistic ideal of what he should represent as an emcee. I don't think there's anything wrong with that as long as such people are honest enough with themselves to admit having that ideal …


Read Omar Burgess' entire article at HipHopDX.

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