Jermaine Dupri Penned Hits For Many. He Explains Why Using Writers Ain’t A Thang (Video)
In recent years, Hip-Hop has called into question the use of additional writers on songs. In 2015, Meek Mill created a beef when he publicized Drake’s working with Atlanta, Georgia MC Quentin Miller on #1 album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. In turn, Meek and Drake’s relationship disintegrated, diss records followed, and the rest of Hip-Hop weighed in on a debate that dates back to 1979’s “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang (which used rhymes penned by Cold Crush Brothers MC Grandmaster Caz).
“Ghostwriting” and writing are two entirely different things. Virginia veteran Skillz once covered-up (then listed) all of his lyrics-for-hire work for others—and there are documented reports of acts like The D.O.C. and Biggie Smalls helping out their crews with bars that aren’t shown in the credits. Meanwhile, Jay Z, Eminem, Royce 5’9″, Sauce Money, and Rhymefest are just some of the names Heads can find if they read their hit album inserts closely.
Jermaine Dupri appeared on Sway In The Morning, recently. Having worked with lyrical Hip-Hop heavyweights (Jay Z, Nas, Slick Rick, Run-D.M.C., Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Jadakiss), Dupri has witnessed Rap lyric masters at work. However, JD has also developed a host of commercially dominant artists, many on his So So Def imprint. The Atlanta, Georgia native drops some knowledge. He says there are two distinct paths to success in Hip-Hop, and while so many purists want to chastise outsourced writing, they also want careers.
“I could get a lot of flack if I try to guard that [lyric writing] issue, because I wrote [for] Kris Kross, and I wrote for Bow Wow…I wrote them albums. I even wrote most of Da Brat’s first album [Funkdafied],” begins Jermaine around 3:00. On his series The Rap Game, Dupri confronts the question of writing with hopeful talent. “People always try to pull stuff up, so I want people to understand: I’ve been there. It was a vision for me to do Kris Kross. It’s a difference when it’s a vision,” says JD, who wrote and produced Kris Kross into multi-platinum success throughout the early and mid-1990s. “I think in Hip-Hop, we lose the concept of writing songs. It’s a song. Great songs have been written by multiple people. That’s just it… it’s one thing to say that you want to be a great rapper. But I think a majority of people today, they want to make records to get on the charts and get this #1 accolade. If you want a #1 record, sometimes it’s tough…sometimes you’re not the guy who can write a #1 record. You gotta be in the studio with somebody who can help you write a #1 record.” In terms of #1 overall Rap records, Dupri was a writer and producer behind Kris Kross’ “Jump” and Nelly, Paul Wall, Ali, and Big Gipp’s “Grillz.”
Drake, Kanye West, Dr. Dre, Will Smith, and Puff Daddy are just five examples of Rap artists with #1 singles, and a history of using writers. While Kendrick Lamar and Andre 3000 are among the MCs who have called out pens-for-hire (and both of them can claim #1 singles of their own), JD sees things differently. “If you want to be a great MC and you want to be the best rapper in the world, then you should be writing your own lyrics, and you should go somewhere and become that person. If you [simply] want to get in the music business, you’re cutting your arms off to say ‘I’m trying to write this song all by myself’ because nobody else is doing it. You’re fighting a war that other people are gonna beat you at, ’cause they’ve been doing it.”
JD is currently doing a tour for Rap Game. One of his earliest proteges, Da Brat, is joining him on the road.