The hot news in hip-hop today is the rumor that Compton rapper Skeme may have ghostwritten songs for Iggy Azalea, including "Fancy," the no. 4 song of 2014. This news probably surprises no one, despite denials from the performer herself and mentor T.I. that anyone else had a hand in crafting her hits. And if anyone is that shocked or appalled by the news...perhaps they should check out the history of hip-hop. You'll be surprised at how many songs are actually written by the least likely of performers. Here are just a few examples:
"Chick on The Side" by Salt-N-Pepa (1986)
Hopefully you weren't under the impression that Salt-N-Pepa wrote the majority of its hits. Even the crown jewel of the group's catalogue, "Push It," was written by another (producer Hurby "Luv Bug" Azor in that case). But what about Pepa's actual raps? Alas, even "Chick On The Side" was written by an outsider...and a man at that. The song of course owes plenty of credit to The Pointer Sisters for its sample, but few realize that Queens emcee Kool G Rap actually ghostwrote for the song, which relates the diatribe of a woman who's discovered her man has been cheating. The irony, of course, is that Kool G wasn't shy about expressing typical hip-hop misogyny in his own music. It wouldn't be the last time a man wrote a women's power anthem. Beyoncé's "Run The World (Girls)" was written primarily by acclaimed producer The-Dream.
"I'll Be Missing You" by Puff Daddy (1997)
It comes as a surprise to no one that Diddy, with the Bad Boy Entertainment roster at his fingertips for years, doesn't write all of his own work. Still, it seems rather lame that this emotional tribute to Puff's best pal, the Notorious B.I.G.—written after his murder during 1997—features bars that weren't actually written by the bereaved. Everyone knows about the Police sample and how much money that's made Sting over the years, but not as many know about Todd "Sauce Money" Gaither, the rapper and Big Daddy Kane affiliate who helped Puff come up with his lines. At least we can say Faith Evans, Biggie's former wife, came across as sincere. Sauce Money gets points for landing a Grammy (Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group) as well as a healthy paycheck for his troubles.
"Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" by Will Smith (1998)
Will Smith is more than capable of delivering his own raps, as family-friendly and mundane as they might be. You and your mother may be surprised however to find out that the lyrics to his most memorable '90s hit, "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It," was actually written by one of the most forthright and sincere rappers in the industry: Nas. Yes, the guy who created arguably the greatest hip-hop album of all time in The Illmatic and the dude who wanted to name his 2008 album N*gger, was also responsible for lines such as "ill-way the an-may on the ance-day oor-flay." Unfortunately, Nas probably made just as much dough in the long run from that single as he has any other song from during his storied career. But you gotta put food on the table. As Nas might say: "I just write it / it's for the cash/ I don't like it."
"Still D.R.E." by Dr. Dre (1999)
You won't see much of Dr. Dre singing if you check out the forthcoming N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, because that wasn't his job. Ice Cube, Eazy-E and MC Ren handled the rapping. Dre provided the incredible beats as that was his skill set. So when the group had split and Dre needed to do his own thing, the classic The Chronic, he got some help writing lyrics, from Snoop Dogg and others. Considering how well that worked out, he did the same thing during 1999 with 2001. One of the writers he hired was Jay Z, far from the peak of his commercial appeal but still no slouch in the rap game. It's ironic to consider that a song titled "Still D.R.E." could have easily been titled "Still J.A.Y." All songwriter Shawn Carter had to do was some brief biographical research, mention Eminem, and listeners were sold. (It should be noted, with reference to N.W.A., that Ice Cube wrote many of Eazy-E's and MC Ren's bars as well).
"We Fly High" by Jim Jones (2006)
Jim Jones has managed to maintain some sort of relevance outside of Dipset's hometown thanks to the 2006 smash "We Fly High," which peaked at no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and had people everywhere shouting "BALLLLLLINNNNNN!" for years to come. Those familiar with the Dipset collective—which also features Cam'Ron and Juelz Santana—might not be surprised to find out that Jones required ghostwriting help to create something palatable for a wide audience. His collaborator, Charly Wingate, is beyond an interesting character: He spent eight years in prison for robbery, befriended Jones upon his release during 2005, and promptly wrote "We Fly High" under the alias Wavey Crockett (he's also gone by the name Max B), and thus brought his pal to broader fame. Less than two years after his release from prison, he was accused of having a role in a New Jersey murder, resulting on him being put away for 75 years. Although his family has appealed the ruling, it doesn't seem like he'll be out ever again. That didn't stop Wingate from releasing his own 2011 debut, Vigilante Season.