The Fine Line Of Ghostwriting In Hip Hop

While fans reminisce on the 5 year anniversary of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Quentin Miller wants no part. “That sh*t just f*cked up everything for me”.

Quentin Miller. Photo Credit: Revolt TV

Ghostwriting stretches back to the beginning of time. Whether you had your friend write up your English essay or helped write a ‘risky text’, it exists in almost every aspect of life.

Typically, ghostwriting is not deemed as detrimental as the term may suggest with celebrities using ‘writers’ to help publish a biography or book. Pop stars such as Beyonce or Rihanna have also made it known that they have additional writers during the songwriting process. Yet both are regarded as top tier artists (rightfully so?).

However in hip-hop, fans and contemporaries tend to hold artists accountable for their lyrics, frowning upon the use of ghostwriters. Celebrating the five year anniversary of a pivotal project, one of the biggest ghostwriting controversies in hip hop has resurfaced.

If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

Photo Credit: MTV

In 2015, Drake officially took on the role of the ‘bad guy’. Letting his presence be felt throughout all 17 songs, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, is held in high regard by most hip hop fans. At the time however, the project was surrounded by controversy.

Quentin Miller receives credit on 10 Bands, Know Yourself, Used To & Legend (not pictured). Photo Credit: KanyeToThe

After Philadelphia rapper, Meek Mill, accused Drake of using a ghostwriter on their collaborative effort, ‘R.I.C.O’, a string of diss tracks between the two were released. However, Meek backed up his claims by questioning the presence of a ‘Quentin Miller’ on the credits of IRYTITL.

Since then, Quentin Miller has become synonymous with being Drake’s ghostwriter, despite venturing off into his own career – which according to him, hasn’t been too great.

“The day [Meek] put my name out there and just blew up my whole spot […] that sh*t just f*cked everything up for me,” said Miller.

Miller went on to say that his relationships with DJ Drama and Don Cannon were ruined due to Meek bringing his name to the forefront. After all, writers are meant to work behind the scenes.

The 30-year-old was far from behind the scenes, becoming a victim of the tension between Drake and Meek Mill and from what he says, casting a shadow on his name.

But with hip hop legends Kanye West and Dr. Dre welcoming additional help , how does a writer associated with Drake become blackballed by hip-hop?

“Take A Chance On Quentin Miller”

JAY Z penned the iconic ‘Still D.R.E’ for Dr Dre. Photo Credit: The Hollywood Post

Generally, fans (and myself) justify Kanye and Dre’s use of writers by resorting to their original role in the genre: the producer. With their main focus being on creating the instrumental and putting together the track, it’s a given that they may need help to pen together the perfect hit.

On the other hand, Drake is considered a rapper first and foremost, placing a greater emphasis on his ability to write. In an interview with MTV, ‘Aaron’ explains why hip-hop frowns upon rappers using ghostwriters.

“The requirements in hip-hop are not about being a dancer, it’s not about being able to play the guitar and drums while you’re rapping, or even DJ’ing while you’re rapping. It is literally about what you’re saying […] I know an R&B artist may not have written their song, but I’m not coming to them for that, I’m coming because their voice is amazing […] With rappers, you’re only coming to them because they can rap. So if you’re not rapping, what are we doing, why am I here?”

Noah ’40’ Shebib. Photo Credit: Toronto Life

At the time of the controversy, Noah ’40’ Shebib defended Drake by saying that the rapper has penned multiple songs for other artists and that Miller is credited on the album. And while Drake will always be associated with using writers, he has continued to succeed. A feat that Miller recognises.

“Everybody else is able to move on ’cause everybody else’s career was established and sh*t, but my career wasn’t established.”

Since 2015, Miller has released four projects but hasn’t seemed to gain much traction in the hip hop community. When addressing the 5 year anniversary of IYRTITL, Miller credits this to being known as ‘Drake’s ghostwriter’. “Everybody wanna kick me to the curb man. Everybody want me to just play the background. ‘Give me ideas for this person, give me ideas for that person. F*ck that sh*t man, give me the opportunity man”.

Personally, I haven’t checked out Quentin Miller’s projects and I have yet to meet someone that has. I do feel like there is credibility to what Miller is saying and labels may have a hard time looking at him as an artist rather than a writer. Being associated with such a public beef does not seem to help his case either.

“And as for Q, man, I changed his life a couple times/N*gga was at Kroger workin’ double time/
Y’all actin’ like he made the boy when I was tryna help the guy” – Drake on Duppy Freestyle

Nevertheless, Miller has been attempting to step into another lane while his talent may lie in writing. As previously mentioned, I am not familiar with his music however I do have a hard time seeing labels ‘taking a chance’ with an aspiring artist that is still referred to as ‘Drake’s ghostwriter’. Sure, he may be blackballed from the industry as an artist, but in his own words people are coming to him for ideas – the same way he got his start on IYRTITL.

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