[Opinion] Nas' Ghostwriting Controversy And How Social Media Has Ruined Journalism
Hip Hop and journalism are in an interesting space.
Once upon a time, being a hip hop journalist was not something that everyone could do. You had to have the knowledge, skill and ability to network in the unique realm of hip hop culture. Not everyone was trusted and you couldn’t live in your mother’s basement to do it. Things have changed over the last decade. The average Joe (or Jill) can become a blogger and somehow be just as significant as a someone who has been documenting the culture for years. Thanks to social media, anybody can find out anything about anyone at anytime. You don’t have to possess an extensive contact list nor do you have to work for a major website or publication. It used to be an honor to hear an album early and have the opportunity to review it before everyone else. Nowadays, hearing an album before its release date is expected. Everyone is a part of this information culture but few are actually “in” it.
The line between credible blogger/journalist and someone with an internet connection who believes twitter and facebook are a virtual rolodex is severely blurred. This particular subject I’ll address more in depth at a later date. Right now, the issue about how we obtain and distribute information ties into a unique issue that hit the web when acclaimed writer, filmmaker and author Dream Hampton suggested that Nas’ Untitled was largely ghostwritten and RappersIKnow.com’s FWMJ (Frank Miller Jr.) posted a follow-up piece titled “Nas Lost (Ghostwriters).”
In brief, after Dream Hampton’s tweet that “Nas’ “Nigger album was largely written by Stic of dead prez and Jay Electronica,” FWMJ published a piece on his blog where he recalled a day back in 2007 when he spoke with Jay Electronica and was informed that Jay was ghostwriting for Nas — “Queens Get The Money” off of Untitled specifically. As eyebrows raise to the mere suggestion that one of the most prolific emcees to ever touch a mic had somebody crafting his rhymes for him, Hampton’s response somewhat substantiated those claims.
“You only got a phone call,” Hampton tweeted in response to FWMJ. “I heard reference tapes for like, 6 songs. I shed thug tears too. He’s a Virgo, and one of my faves.”
If that wasn’t enough to pique interest, Sticman of dead prez also used his Facebook page to chime in on his the swirling rumors that he was involved in the creation of the Untitled album.
“As far as the rumors about myself and jay electronika ghost writing for Nas, let me say this. Nas is one of the if not the most prolific original lyricist to EVER do it. My contributions to his album was a collaboration and an honor and under his direction of what he wanted to convey and say. Haters cant discredit that man’s genuis. Nas is the Don.”
Does this mean that Nas doesn’t write his rhymes? No. Does it mean we should discredit his entire career because of a tweet and a post? Nope. What does it mean? Nothing…to you. What it does mean is that Nas didn’t work alone on Untitled and perhaps other recordings. To what extent he worked with others has yet to be revealed. There’s only so much you can find out from 140 characters and a blog that is nothing more than an open diary from an individual perspective for you to read. All you know is that something is there. Nothing more, nothing less.
You may not be aware of FWMJ’s experiences in the music industry (trust me, he’s been around longer than you know), but you can’t refute what Dream Hampton has done for the culture and what Sticman has done as an artist. For someone like Hampton to say that and Sticman to follow up is enough of a lead for a good investigative journalist to begin his research with.
I repeat: A good investigative journalist to begin his research with.
Here’s where what I stated about the blurred line between credible industry individual and pseudo journalist comes into play.
The firestorm of controversy immediately hit social media and blogs that posted links to the article. Some very critical comments that didn’t feign speculation, but instead drew to a conclusion of whether or not Nas had ghostwriters flooded the web. No matter which side you were on, there were some very concrete claims made by bloggers and so-called journalists that continue to pry open this gaping wound in “Hip-Hop Journalism.” Everyone claimed they knew something but only a select few know anything. Stories hit websites with claims that Nas had a ghostwriter without any research. Others just slammed the mere suggestion without taking a look at the sources and how credible (or not credible) they were. Either way, there wasn’t a whole lot of investigation or journalism that took place.