Nas' Ghostwriting Controversy And How Social Media Has Ruined Journalism

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 08-16-2012, 06:10 PM         #1
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s7venwords 
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Nas' Ghostwriting Controversy And How Social Media Has Ruined Journalism
 

 
Posted by Andreas Hale in Editorials, Music, Opinion

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’ “****** 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.

As a writer who has spent nearly a decade as a journalist and editor for outlets including HipHopDX, HipHopSite and BET, this is one of those stories that troubles me. It’s not because of the story (or non-story) itself, but how that information is delivered and deciphered. Those in the industry that have paid their dues have been privy to numerous bits of information and have vowed never to share with the public without consent. Numerous “off the record” conversations with artists, labels, management and publicists regarding things that fans only speculate about are often had. Although hip-hop has always been a barber shop culture where everyone thinks they know everything, without proof the reality is that you are merely speculating. Before social media, speculation was confined to phone conversations and emails that only you and that individual had access to. After social media, speculation is driven to fact courtesy of the number of followers your Facebook, Twitter or blog has. It’s not about having the truth, it’s about who can say it first.

And that’s where this is all screwed up.

Journalists take great pride in “scoops” and take even greater pride in remaining mum on the sources that give them leads. But just like a leaked album, it’s getting increasingly frustrating when what you had first gets recklessly leaked to the public. Just as it is difficult in protecting an album from leaking before its release date, it is quite the feat to hold a story until the time is right. Thanks to the internet, anyone can say anything and be a “source.” Remember Kat Stacks?

Andreas Hale’s Fun Fact: If bloggers became criminal detectives based on their popularity and ability to get information out before everyone else, there would be a whole lot of wrong people getting cuffed based off of hearsay.

But I digress…

Sure, journalists speculate just like anyone else but often don’t report anything as fact without knowing the truth and being given the green light to reveal that truth. Anything else is irresponsible. Trust me, there are more than a few industry insiders that were aware of these ghostwriting claims with Nas well before August 13, 2012.

Sit in on a conversation about hip-hop with anyone outside of the industry and count the number of items that are offered as concrete fact. It’s mind blowing. Now, find out who and what their sources are. Usually, what you’ll find is that it’s fourth party information. Somebody that knows someone whose uncle carried bags for *insert rapper’s name here* probably isn’t the most reliable source when it comes to some of hip-hop’s more burning questions. You know, like, ghostwriting.

Back in the day, gossip rags were considered gossip rags and respected just like a gossip magazine should be. Nobody took the National Enquirer seriously, but it was a form of entertainment. However, in this day and age where hyper-journalism changes a well-researched story into a rat race of who can get the information up the fastest, there is no church in the wild of hip hop culture.

Sensationalism. Know it. Understand it. Be careful of it and how a sensationalized headline can ruin a relationship. Considering that most people read headlines on twitter and fail to click the link for the story, whatever that headline read is the story.

“Jay Electronica Wrote Nas’ Untitled”

That’s sensationalism. There’s no “?” that suggests that the story is speculation. It’s just a statement. Now that statement is all over the internet because people don’t actually read. Oftentimes, sensationalism is used to reel the reader in. However, when not careful, that headline can be considered irresponsible and flat out wrong. In all honesty, headline sensationalism is something everyone from seasoned journalists to rookie bloggers are guilty of.

Nevertheless, distinguishing credible source from blogger looking to leech on a culture has become difficult for the general public to decipher. Just because you run a blog with a bunch of hits courtesy of questionable (or stolen) content doesn’t make you a reliable source. What you are is a form of entertainment that should not be considered a reliable news source.

Great writers don’t exploit relationships for hits. Average bloggers seeking a cheap hit do. Those that could care less about their credibility will exploit any opening they can find, regardless of how it damages a relationship. Considering that social media — something that everyone has access to — has become a primary source for news, keeping, strengthening and maintaining relationships have lost importance.

Now, back to the issue at hand.

When certain comments suggested that FWMJ’s post was “sh*tty hip-hop journalism” it brought to light just how confused people are when it comes to how this culture is documented. What FWMJ wrote were his thoughts as it pertained to a certain individual that he has a relationship with. It was a personal reflection that outlined how that experience made him feel and he shared that with you. That is far from “hip-hop journalism” and should be treated as such. If you want “hip-hop journalism” wait until the research is done, the questions are asked to those involved and a story is released.

But FWMJ knows his role. He’s not a disillusioned blogger who flaunts his industry relationships at every turn. He’s also not a writer for a major media outlet. He just opted to share his feelings with the public through his medium on something that he (perhaps wrongfully) a.ssumed was common knowledge. Come to find out, it wasn’t common knowledge and it started a sh*tstorm of controversy that has everyone talking. I can’t say what motivated Dream Hampton to put that into the atmosphere, but keep in mind who she is, what she’s done and that may put a few things into perspective for you before you blindly call her a liar.

Ultimately, the issue of whether Nas has had a ghostwriter extensively pen his rhymes has yet to be proven. But without an understanding of a writing credit means or a deeper comprehension of just how many of your favorite artists have taken part in ghostwriting and ghostproducing, the issue is a non-issue. Too many people think they known the ins and outs of split sheets, points, royalties and the like but only know the outliers and not the intricate details. Just because you have a blog doesn’t mean that you are an expert in hip-hop culture. You just enjoy writing about it.

Be careful of what and you believe and disregard, stop speculating and be patient for the truth. Rather than be a blogger that adds fuel to the fire, sit back and watch the story as it unfolds.

That is, if you care.


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 Nas' Ghostwriting Controversy And How Social Media Has Ruined Journalism | The Well Versed

108 comments for "Nas' Ghostwriting Controversy And How Social Media Has Ruined Journalism"

 5 years ago '10        #2
trex 16 heat pts16
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But change the link to point to the first page brah

 5 years ago '11        #3
X_WunderKind_X 909 heat pts909
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Social media has made Journalism difficult. Its happened in sports also.
 5 years ago '08        #4
Illuminati 194 heat pts194
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BX n*ggas are popping in her and exiting just as quickly as soon as they spot that wall of text

Come on BX.
 5 years ago '12        #5
Prostyle 2 heat pts
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not enough pictures... Cannot process....
 5 years ago '05        #6
PhI|0z0pH3r 72 heat pts72
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Yea Social Media has made every coward and wannabe basement nerd think their something alot bigger then what they really are.
 5 years ago '12        #7
noverum 
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Those in the industry that have paid their dues have been privy to numerous bits of information and have vowed never to share with the public without consent. Numerous “off the record” conversations with artists, labels, management and publicists regarding things that fans only speculate about are often had.
Did this guy just wake up from a coma? 'Investigative journalism' is an antiquated facet of 'old media'. These days, information is provided to the public raw, unprocessed; universally, not just in Hip-Hop. There are many new problems that arise with the evolution of media, but exposure of conspiracy and industry secrets is not one of them.

When FWMJ got a phone-call that shattered his respect for his favourite artist and subsequently decided to publicise his thoughts on the issue before investigating the validity of the information he had been given, his conjecture became public, for better or worse. For me, conjecture is better than deceit. Journalists who hold back information because it's "off the record" lack integrity, because journalism should be about informing the masses at best - and providing facts without context at worst, not being a puppet of a PR machine.
 5 years ago '12        #8
Boo The Fool 12 heat pts12
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that n*gga sounds like a BX member with that "nas lost" title....talking sh*t about the great anything after that
[pic - click to view]

 5 years ago '12        #9
Ricky Retardo 43 heat pts43
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 noverum said:
Did this guy just wake up from a coma? 'Investigative journalism' is an antiquated facet of 'old media'. These days, information is provided to the public raw, unprocessed; universally, not just in Hip-Hop. There are many new problems that arise with the evolution of media, but exposure of conspiracy and industry secrets is not one of them.

When FWMJ got a phone-call that shattered his respect for his favourite artist and subsequently decided to publicise his thoughts on the issue before investigating the validity of the information he had been given, his conjecture became public, for better or worse. For me, conjecture is better than deceit. Journalists who hold back information because it's "off the record" lack integrity, because journalism should be about informing the masses at best - and providing facts without context at worst, not being a puppet of a PR machine.
Lacks integrity? you need to look that word up again bruh...

what you stated was a journalist should blatantly destroy the trust of his interviewee or information source just to get the hot scoop out to the masses 1st. thats some backstabbing sh*t that gets people black-balled and ostracized from receiving further invites for more exclusives. Remember when Omen got kicked out of the Watch the throne listening session for tweeting and recording audio? you won't see him nowhere near a another event for DefJam/Rocnation/G.O.O.D Music.

don't think it was worth it bruh...
 5 years ago '12        #10
noverum 
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 Ricky Retardo said:
Lacks integrity? you need to look that word up again bruh...

what you stated was a journalist should blatantly destroy the trust of his interviewee or information source just to get the hot scoop out to the masses 1st. thats some backstabbing sh*t that gets people black-balled and ostracized from receiving further invites for more exclusives. Remember when Omen got kicked out of the Watch the throne listening session for tweeting and recording audio? you won't see him nowhere near a another event for DefJam/Rocnation/G.O.O.D Music.

don't think it was worth it bruh...
in·teg·ri·ty/inˈtegritē/
Noun:
The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.


So telling the public only what the industry wants them to hear so that you get greater access to juicier sources is your definition of journalistic integrity? As far as I'm concerned, that's the definition of corruption.

cor·rup·tion/kəˈrəpSHən/
Noun:
Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.
 08-17-2012, 03:06 AM         #11
2D....  OP
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nobody works on an album alone

notice how those grammy and award speeches thank so many people?

major league music takes a team
and i really doubt anyone doubts nas's lyricism and writing
the fact he got stic's direction on there is great
 5 years ago '04        #12
UF4Soldier 127 heat pts127
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lol nobodies n here kus they saw all dem dam words !
 5 years ago '04        #13
Dot.Com 5 heat pts
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I mean I love a good read but, after a quick browse thru the responses it all seems like someone opinion. So, um.. Nah.
 5 years ago '07        #14
Jackstunt 
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Ghostwriting is nothing new. I would imagine most of the industry relies on Ghostwriters to either write the whole album or co-write the album.
 5 years ago '04        #15
GLADHEATER 
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nas is the greatest. im sure richard prior had a few dudes write him a few jokes
 5 years ago '07        #16
Jackstunt 
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 GLADHEATER said:
nas is the greatest. im sure richard prior had a few dudes write him a few jokes
Paul Mooney wrote for Richard Pryor.
 5 years ago '05        #17
WCIB 111 heat pts111
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Social Media is a brand new thing. I truly believe we'll get a hold of it in the future. Everybody wants everything RIGHT NOW.... and with that comes unsubstantiated bullsh*t. People are stupid... it's going to be up to smart people to reign in the retards. Truth is, Dream Hampton spoke off cuff... i still haven't seen her tweet(s) in any type of context worth even bring Nas and ghostwriting up... that's on her.
 08-17-2012, 07:56 AM         #18
s7venwords  OP
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All artists' have sh*t given to them to use in a verse, that doesn't constitute "ghost writing". It's called the creative process, as you take what is around you ( chatter/conversations ) and run with it.
 5 years ago '06        #19
BlackandGifted 17 heat pts17
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 Prostyle said:
not enough pictures... Cannot process....
 5 years ago '05        #20
freshtoodef 5 heat pts
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I'm not a fan of ghostwriting but rap seems to be the only lane that ghostwriting is frowned upon
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