A Few Thoughts on Nas, dream hampton, Ghost Writing & Hip Hop Losing its Integrity

The controversy around writer dream hampton (she spells her name in lower case) sending out a tweet where she asserted rappers Stic.man of dead prez and Jay Electronica were ‘ghost writers‘ for Nas is interesting on several levels. First, a lot of folks saw the tweet or heard about it and immediately jumped up to defend the Queensbridge emcee claiming that him having a ghostwriter is an assault to the ‘integrity of Hip Hop’ and that dream is somehow a bad journalist who should be tossed under a bus. I’ll let folks marinate on that for moment..

For those who aren’t up on what happened, here’s the tweet that dream sent out a few days ago…People went ape shyt over this..

“I think Jay writes what he believes. Nas’ “Nigger” album was largely written by Stic of dead prez and Jay Electronica @JusAire…”@dreamhampton

I found the angry reaction curious because what Dream tweeted wasn’t uncommon knowledge. Back when Nas was working on the Untitled album, there was lots of banter, speculation and hope that because he was working with dead prez, they might pen some tracks for him..Many felt such a move would give Nas sharper and harder hitting political content in his songs.

Ain’t nothing wrong with that when you consider over the years we’ve seen percussionist Duke Bootee do this for Grandmaster Flash & Mele-Mel with the landmark song The Message. We recently saw  Bay Area rapper Paris do this for Chuck D of Public Enemy on the album  ‘Rebirth of a Nation‘. No one would ever deny Chuck or Mel’s writing abilities or political prowess…In the case of Nas and Sticman, whether what resulted was co-writing, producing where hooks, ideas and a few bars were provided, scoring of tracks to model for Nas or ghostwriting in the technical sense where full songs were penned minus public credit, none of that seemed shocking, out of the ordinary or a bad thing. There’s a long tradition from  Billy Holiday’s Strange Fruit penned by Abel Meeropol to Stevie Wonder penning songs for Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & even Michael Jackson to Ice Cube and DOC penning songs for Eazy E and NWA to Prince penning songs for everyone from Chaka Khan to Sheila E to Rhymefest penning Jesus Walks for Kanye West.. Hip Hop and music in general has not lost its integrity because of it.

Over the years, I been in enough recording sessions with artists big and small to see first hand how the process plays out..People share ideas, verses get traded, shifted around, reassigned, some are written and then rewritten, some are imposed etc.. How things get publicly credited and monies divided up in the end is one aspect..but for the most part, the end game has been to put out the absolute best product. The bottom line is no matter what folks like to believe, not everything recorded is written by the one spitting verses. That applies to folks who some might consider the very best and it applies to some who are relatively unknown.

We see similar process in beat production. Not everyone who is deemed ‘the producer‘ works the drum machine and craft the melodies. By now its common knowledge that revered producer Dr Dre is not in the studio coming up with every single drum track, it doesn’t mean he’s not capable nor would anyone deny is skill as a producer?

On a side note, we also know that over the years everyone from Eminem to Jay-Z have penned raps for Dre.. Have we stopped liking him because it or do we give him dap for doing great records and using the best talent around him..

When you’re making records and you have money invested, in particular major label money, it becomes a team effort. It’s very collaborative where lots of folks have a hand in it. I don’t think the recording process as I’ve seen/ experienced takes away from the writing prowess of an artist, especially someone of the stature of Nas. If anything, one getting co-writers etc is a smart move especially if you’re trying to bring fresh perspectives or push boundaries musically or subject wise.

With all that being said, at the end of the day both Jay Electronica and Stic.man have denied ghostwriting for Nas and unless we were there in the studio with them, we’ll have to take their word for it… Sticman has been particularly humble in terms of expressing his long time admiration for Nas and further explains their recording process in a recent Vibe Magazine interview.

From where I sit, I think folks instead of getting upset at the possibility that they ghostwrote for Nas, they should’ve seen such a move as monumental.  Stic and Jay working with Nas, that’s a powerful team. People are acting like these guys are some Johnny-come-lately slouches or some no-name rookies to scoff at..They are not.. They are top shelf artists. If someone like Stic is penning songs, whether it’s for Nas or the guy down the street, its worth a listen especially if it’s on the political tip. Very few do it better.

dream hampton

With respect to dream hampton sending out a tweet which was directed to someone whether right or wrong is not an indictment on journalism-its a tweet. Yes it came from popular person who is a journalist, but a quick look at Dream’s twitter time line, will quickly reveal everything she tweets is not a news story. Far from it.. She shares many opinions, debates folks,  shares speculations and gets snarky at times.. Who hasn’t on twitter? It’s barbershop/ beauty shop talk..Media types should not be mining twitter for news stories unless they tend to do due diligence, put things in context and journalistically follow-up.

dream’s penning of Jay-Z‘s Decoded, her brilliant columns and insightful articles over the past 15 years covering everything from rape to Too Short and sexism to her film on Black August all go out the window over a tweet?? Really?

If folks are really concerned about the Hip Hop journalism and faulty information being passed along to the masses, before going at dream hampton how about we go after those multi-million dollar corporate radio giants that run commercial sponsored gossip/ entertainment reports on the daily. Seems like I’ve heard more foul stuff said about Nas and his failed marriage to singer Kelis and his child support payments on those outlets then I ever seen Dream tweet or write. How many of those stories were accurate?  Was Nas really a dead beat dad? How many ran to the bank on those stories without checking to see if it was true or not?  Was Hip Hop’s integrity destroyed over those claims or only when it was asserted that Nas may have had some stellar artists pen songs for him?

The harsh and sometimes threatening response to dream was over the top and to be quite honest, cowardly. Was this really because she suggested Nas had ghost writers or because she was a woman? I didn’t see a whole lot of folks getting froggy a few years back when Suge Knight made unsavory remarks about Nas appearing on the song Thug Mansion on 2Pac’s album.. Where was all the ‘you’re a bitch’ and ‘you’re groupie’ rhetoric then?  Are we silent when it folks making remarks who are not afraid to talk greasy and mix it up physically with those who are opposed?

Seems like it was just a few short weeks ago when many were coming down on Nas for defending actress Gwyneth Paltrow and giving her a pass tweeting the N word.. Quite a few folks went in on Nas after he claimed Paltrow was a ‘real nigger’, some accused him of falling off and selling out. Some said they’d never listen to a Nas album again..Where was all the tough talk in response to those critiques? This is not to say that folks can’t get at dream hampton and express disappointment or disagreement over her remarks..She is not above criticism. I’m simply suggesting that all of us can come at things a different way.. We can be passionate without threatening, vicious and over-the-top demeaning on the misogynist tip.

For those who feel passionate about Nas and feel he needs to get more shine, here’s something to consider..I checked the recent issues of Billboard, their August 25th Rap Charts and their August 25th Top 50 R&B/ Hip Hop Charts, and you know what was missing?  A song from Nas. The man just put out a brilliant album and thus far it seems to be shunned for a whole lot of mediocre stuff..

We should be upset more radio stations aren’t rocking cuts off Nas’ new album Good Life

Outside of Hot 97 in New York and a handful of station here there, most stations according to their playlist ain’t rocking Nas at all..Many feel Nas is a stellar lyricist who helps raise consciousness, so how is that Nas is news worthy enough to be gossiped about when his marriage fails and he’s deemed a dead beat dad, but now worthy enough to be played on some of those same outlets? That’s where people’s anger should be directed..

Let’s not make excuses for these public airwaves to not have songs like Nas’ Daughters being heard 8-10 times a day. We should be angry that young impressionable minds that tune in, are not being exposed to a song that gives encouragement for men to step up and be present for their kids. Why can’t these outlets show any love for the incredible joint he recently did with Knaan called ‘Nothing to Lose? Was there no songs off the dope album ‘Good Life’ to expose to the masses?

If folks are gonna ride for Nas, ride for him on some real impactful stuff..Like I said earlier, sure folks can call out dream for being wrong, but how about calling those folks out who really influence and shape minds? If we concerned about the integrity of Hip Hop, get mad and shut those outlets down.. Call those owners and program directors who talk to millions of people at every given moment to do right by Hip Hop if that’s really the issue..Lets’ push to make sure Nas is performing at the next Grammy or BET Award vs someone who has a fraction of his talent.. There’s simply no comparison between dream hampton’s tweet and the powerful forces at work day in and day out systematically undermine Nas and Hip Hop. Let’s get mad at that..

Something to Ponder..

Davey D

Comments

  1. again, i see and agree with the larger picture. but for some reason, a lot of writers in dream hamptons circle, including jay smooth, seem to be deflecting.

    first of all, we agree Nas has a huge reputation as a writer. thats what his whole legacy is based on. so when you question that legacy, it is naive and silly to think people are not going to react, especially if you provide no proof. that is what journalism is. the ability to be objective, and provide evidence for your conclusions. a lot of nas fans don’t want to believe it, so why not prove to them with facts, and we can all go our way. end of story. why leave it out in the air with no definitive answer or anything. we are all just in this weird zone where one person says something, the people she indicted all deny it. if we give dream the benefit of the doubt, then we must conclude that stic man and jay electronica are dishonest. is that fair? surely if we are to believe they are dishonest, the accuser must provide that facts if we are gonna dirty up someones reputation.

    still, the misogynistic attacks on her have been reprehensible. and no one condones that. Just Blaze didn’t threaten her for what its worth, that was another accusation she put out there. or is Just Blaze now a liar as well. I am sorry. But we have to go on more than someones reputation as a writer to just tarnish peoples legacy.

    lots of people have had big reputations in the past and still f’d up.

    everything else you say, i agree with, and are important points. but i don’t want us to undermine the seriousness of the charge dream levelled against Nas, and then now go off on tangents about misogyny and crap radio stations. important, but it lets her off the hook for some suspect behaviour.

    • Mike what if its true, but because of reputation & all that’s at stake, wouldn’t it make sense for all involved to say no?? I know if I revealed some of the cats who I know for fact have spit ghostwritten material they would deny deny deny and denounce me for saying it.. doesn’t mean its not true..Is Dream really that reckless to say what she said with certainty and not have had a strong inclination it was true? As I said in the piece if all involved said No then that’s all you can go on and publicly Dream had her information wrong.. But those stories were circulating around when that album was being worked on and we didnt see all this vehent denial back then..

      As for those responding ride for bigger things with Nas.. Like how come this gifted writer aint being played…

  2. Great points Davy. Many times with Hip Hop we place our heroes in this box that we want them to be remembered in. Many people still picture Nas as the “Illmatic” Nas. He’s not that person anymore. He’s a business man, making business moves. If that were the case it wouldn’t bother me one bit. I still liked the songs he did from Untitled. It wouldn’t shock me either. I mean really take a step back and look at his life, touring, TV/film appearances, etc. I personally don’t see how he would have time to write. He is a respected lyricist and in the top ten of all time but him getting help does not take that away. Hell, even LL Cool J wrote songs for the great Run-DMC. You certainly can’t deny the impact they had on this genre. Twitter is “shop talk.” If someone says something or has an opinion there is no need for the entire barber shop to snap out on them. It was really a “so what?” situation for me. People just seem to live on unnecessary drama via social media outlets. This is the world we live in now.

  3. Adam&Steve says:

    Here’s a thought:

    Nas was ALWAYS GARBAGE!

    Ghost writer or not!

    And characterizing him as way more talented than he actually is,
    is what that killed Rap Music!

    Davy d dont know rap.
    Davy d know need attention.

  4. I get what you’re saying, but this is about the “Technical” aspects of making records. Nobody, including yourself has addressed this yet. What is ironic about that is the fact that everybody who has written a piece on this doesn’t Write Rhymes, doesn’t produce music, isn’t a sound engineer, doesn’t chop up samples on an MPC, etc…You, Dream, Andrea Hale, etc…you have no technical music experience! END OF STORY…that’s why this shouldn’t been a story to begin with. Did Nas collab with Dead Prez & Jay Elect on his N***er album? YES! Did somebody write a hook for 1 of the songs on his album? YES ………Did somebody write Nas verses for him? NOOOOOOOO! A Ghostwriter is not somebody who helps in the creative process by coming up with a chorus, building a bridge in a record, throwing in diff creative ideas. A Ghostwriter is somebody who flat out writes all lyrics!

    • Ramon that’s interesting u would suggest I don’t/haven’t write rhymes, never been a studio and have no technical music experience..whats that based on? I’ll wait..

      As far as the story is concerned..It was never a story for me, because whether we wanna get technical about what ghostwriting is or isn’t.. the bottom line is in studio folks exchange ideas, lyrics etc.. My piece was connecting to larger issues..It was not about the technical aspects of recording a song.. Nas, stic and Jay all know dream and can get at her with corrections if she gave out wrong information…But it seems like everyone who wasn’t in that studio wanted to go at the sister in a foul way as if she did a major crime..talking about Hip Hop has been compromised. Hip Hop was not compromised..Were you in the studio Ramon?

  5. And yet, this extends beyond the music and the process of creating music. When dreamhampton spoke the truth about Nas she stepped out of the accepted patriarchal paradigm that our culture says she is safe to operate from. Her statement, while being true, was akin to a woman challenging the very nature of hip hop itself and seen as a threat to its various established deities. Hip hop through a theological lens and as a cultural movement is a polytheistic religion with Nas presiding as one of it’s few remaining preeminent “gods”.

    There are many religious connections to be made here. In the context of the religious, dreamhampton “overstepped her boundaries”. You can be an active participant in the “church of hip-hop”. You can serve in the church and work in the church but as a woman don’t ever question or try to be the priest of the church and under no uncertain terms should you attempt to challenge the consecrated theological constructs and mythologies of its worshipped deities.

    This paradigm is a cultural reflection of the misogynistic patriarchal culture that we live in when it comes to the intersection of women and revered cultural and religious institutions and its respective spaces. We live in a society where women should “know their place”, therefore we should not be surprised when such a critique, levelled by a woman no less, is met with such a hostile, albeit irrational response because hip hop is also one of the most overtly hyper-masculine institutions in America.

  6. great point Dave, and I think that is why there was push back. Like you said, ideas, lyrics etc are exchanged in the studio. If that is the case, why single out Nas? and why exempt Jay-Z? which is how all this started.

    “Jay writes what he feels, Nas album was largely written by Jay Electronica and Stic Man.” that was her original tweet. So Jay don’t exchange ideas in the studio? that seemed to be the gist of her argument.

    we have Beanie Sigel and Just Blaze on record saying they have tidied up Jay lyrics in the past. Why did that get no traction? it wasn’t a big deal cause like you said, its normal procedure. But why blow up Nas spot like he doing something underhanded? that where the backlash came from.

    as for josephb, that is pure distraction. we not allowed to question women now? give me a break. we not allowed to expect high standard of journalistic integrity now because she is a woman? smh.

  7. Davey D, you said ‘My piece was connecting to larger issues..It was not about the technical aspects of recording a song”.. But you and I both know that the 2 people (Dream Hampton & FWMJ) clearly had intentions of discrediting Nas with the technical aspects of him recording a record. Authenticity is what this ENTIRE issue is really about. When FWMJ titled the article “Nas Lost” and proceeds to talk about Jay Electronica ghostwriting his album there’s really nothing to debate about! It’s a blatant shot! In terms of your studio experience, I admit I don’t know exactly what you’ve done inside of a studio, but the fact that you would insinuate that there is a strong possibility that 1 of the BEST Urban lyricists & BEST Hip Hop writers ever used a “Ghostwriter” I can’t validate respect for that or your knowledge of being around MC’s inside of a studio. Being somebody who takes pride in writing rhymes & being around other MC’s…that just doesn’t exist. I’ve never seen an MC have somebody write their verses for them, EVER!! And that’s exactly what Dream & FWMJ insinuated. Rappers & Entertainers use Ghostwriters not MC’s! Nas is an MC! And by the way…Dream Hampton nor FWMJ weren’t present inside that studio either! It just seems as if you are coming to the defense of somebody who wasn’t present inside that studio either.

    • Ramon dream made a tweet, one in which I posted.. in which she said Stic and Jay E wrote much Untitled/nigger.. To me it wasn’t a big deal.. My experience has been seeing first hand cats write verses, switch off, etc.. you can call it ghost writing, co-writing or whatever name u wanna give it.. It happens all the time..No way in my mind or any the folks I roll with would see it as a discredit..I seen some of the very best pen lyrics and be penned for.. I gave a couple of examples that weren’t initially publicly known but later we came to know…As far as insuating, I don’t need to insuate anything.. I’m pretty upfront, blunt and not the least bit shy with my words. Recording records is a process as you know and many take a variety of roads to get the job done..I’m sure Dream knows this as well.. In the case of Nas, her info was refuted.. and I plainly stated, if stic says no then the answer is no.. I simply said when I first heard the talk about ghostwriting several years back it was no big deal to me.. Seen it all the time..

  8. Dream knew exactly what she was doing. She loves to make borderline comments then when it goes in the negative direction she screams victim. She is extremely intelligent but sadly loves attention. Her histrionics and blind love and promotion for all thing BIG and Jay Z hurt her credibility. What does the term ghostwriter mean? So if you knew this what would be the point in revealing this information?

  9. ernie paniccioli says:

    The onus should be on MF.ing “tweeting” itself. Birds tweet, people talk and people write, phone, and call . Tweeting is killing both written and spoken language arts. I have never sent or received a tweet nor sent a text message. I feel they are too deep in the rabbit hole to be seen for the social damage they are creating.

  10. “but it lets her off the hook for some suspect behaviour”- right and just let slide JustBlaze statement: “You give us up one more time.. I’ll bleed you…real quiet..and leave ya here” gtfoh with that garbage, thats exactly whats wrong with hip hop. Misogny and patriarchy are running rampant within our music and our culture. smh…

  11. One thing I did take from this is that dream appears to equate Jay’s entire writing and existence on writing what he feels, but then equating a few songs on Nas’ album to his entire career. That’s the part that I feel is wrong. Sort of like saying that someone who always paid for groceries but one time sampled a grape is now a life long thief and is no longer held in such high regard

    • Dream stated that much of what was on one album was attributed to stic and Jay E.. she didnt say entire career or that Nas cant write.. I do agree that Jay is not flawless..

  12. Davey D….another winner indeed. Educate these people. Many know hip-hop music but know about hip-hop history or its historical creative practices. A tweet is a tweet. I need people to get over themselves and read a book. Better yet, go out and write one.

  13. Hey Davey D, Can we discredit most journalist being that they all have to pass their work through an editor? Do we discredit producers because they had help from others in the studio? Would KRS One still be a MC God if Just Ice helped him write a hook? Dream was doing her best to discredit Nas when she was asked about JAy Z. She has yet to show proof of her statements and any seasoned journalist that has made a living off of writing always focuses on the proof and presents the facts before print.

  14. da' hiphop says:

    Nas is not the “street poet” or whatever he was TWENTY years ago. He’s just another old black man with stunted intellectual growth living in the past like all rappers over the age of 20. These people simply never moved on in life.

  15. It’s funny that people have asked me for proof, as if I wrote an article about this. I did not lie in my tweet, I did not describe a collaboration and I don’t care who does or doesn’t believe me. But thank you Dave ‘Davey D’ Cook for talking abt the quick way this turned misogynistic. And for the record, I am not in Jay-Z’s camp anymore than I’m in Invincible Detroit’s camp. IIn fact, I spend more time w/her than him and I;m loving her new music while I’ve yet to listen Watch The Throne). That said, this hero worship is sad. Sadder than the misogyny. When I was 12 I had MJ buttons, these are 30+ cats acting like I told them Jesus was Palestinian. (Also true.) But whatever, I’m done. Thanks Davey.

  16. “I did not lie in my tweet, I did not describe a collaboration and I don’t care who does or doesn’t believe me. But thank you Dave ‘Davey D’ Cook for talking abt the quick way this turned misogynistic.” But thank you davy d, for suggesting things that were never said, but that fit into my agenda! We’re colaborators in the victemization game.

  17. dream, as you said, you didn’t write an article about this, you merely tweeted it. So why are you suprised that people aren’t just taking your word as law? I know that you are completely aware of the difference between a rumor and an established fact. Well, unfortunately you haven’t actually established any facts in this whole thing and you haven’t really given people alot to go by. Just saying “I didn’t lie” isn’t really enough here to verify what you are saying. I mean for people who know you personally, that might be enough for them to take your word, but for the general public who dont actually know you, you know that isn’t really enough. You can understand that right?

    As far as the “well ghostwriters will not admit to being ghostwriters” arguement, thats really a straw man arguement because it paints the named invidual as “guilty” with no way to argue, meanwhile there is no actual evidence that confirms their “guilt”.

    I agree the mysogonistic remarks and threats you have recieved (im not just talking about from Just Blaze, I’m talking about from the general public) were not called for nor acceptable. That is not even debatable.

    So basically, since I dont personally know any of the people involved and nothing has been established aside from stic.man reaffirming that he collaborated on some tracks and wrote a couple hooks, I’m basically going to have the same position that I had prior to this rumor, and that is that Untitled was a brave move for a mainstream artist and a great concept album with some really great tracks and some not so great tracks.

    and dream, if people calling you a liar doesn’t bother you, fine, keep it moving. However if people calling you a liar does bother you, all you have to do is write an actual article about this and prove your statement to be true. You could possibly even post in in one of your blogs on Jay-Z’s lifeandtimes.com website.

  18. flavorblade says:

    Joe Budden writes for Eminen

  19. flavorblade says:

    Lupe Fiasco wrote for Jay-Z

  20. Nightmare says:

    Soulja Boy tweets for Dream Hampton.

  21. i’m a big fan of real hiphop.I think this is great just to be talking about real emcee’s now a days.I can’t remember the last time I read an article with such lyrical artist like nas,jay elect and stic this sounds like a crazy colabo project.I’m am an emcee myself and i feel it’s like you take an oath to the craft to never have a ghost writer.With that said i truly doubt nas spit a track, word for word written by another emcee claiming he wrote it himself.I can understand building and exchanging ideas creativity and hooks but a whole verse or song not likely.artist like dre or lil weezer are not really emcees more entertainers (cheese wizzy) producer & biz man (dre).

  22. Peace Davey, Thanks again for your very informative article. My receptions often horrible and I don’t watch T.V. so I always get some great updates from you, in terms of hip hop. Been a graf writer and emcee since I was a child. Growing up the way I did, I was raised in that mentality to have pride in what you create and to do it yourself. While paying dues and expressing yourself both are important aspects of hip hop, there’s much to be said about building a powerful team. Thanks for protecting dream hampton. I think you’re right to suggest she was criticized harshly due to being a woman. ALSO, we’ve had some tech delays but I’d love to put Nas in real heavy rotation at the FM jazz station I write for. Was my intention from the get. ASIDE, I’m in a critical point in a National Campaign to Free a Life Prisoner and Survivor of Child Sex Slavery. Please contact me for info if you’re interested to write or air a piece on her behalf. Thank you! – Jesaka

  23. flavorblade says:

    GillieDa Kid wrote for Lil Wayne

  24. flavorblade says:

    Lloyd Banks wrote for 50 Cent

  25. HTP/PEACE. If you like Nas, Stic or Jay E…Then check this out http://www.soundcloud.com/amun-ra-1 or http://www.youtube.com/amun09

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