The internet exploded this week when Meek Mill accused Drake of not writing his own raps. The subsequent comments Meek made after his initial rant suggested that he was mainly upset about “R.I.C.O.,” the one song that Drake helped out with on Meek’s Dreams Worth More Than Money album. At a recent concert with Nicki Minaj, Meek stuck to his guns and his hurt pride, declaring he was “upset as a fan.” It’s hard to know the facts, but he seems to feel that Drake didn’t respect him enough to deliver a self-penned verse.
Drake has mostly stayed silent over the course of the week, other than liking an Instagram video that took at an indirect shot at Meek and DMing a friend in quintessential Drake-speak: “I signed up for greatness. This comes with it.” Drake’s longtime collaborator Noah “40” Shebib took to Twitter to defend the MC: “you're smokin that shit you say you selling if you think someone wrote that shit.”
Lupe Fiasco added his voice to the din yesterday. In two reasonable, refreshingly rational Instagram posts, Lupe talked about the long history of ghost-writing in rap. “To rappers from a rapper...simply write your own rhymes as much as you can if you are able. Ghostwriting, or borrowing lines, or taking suggestions from the room has always been in rap and will always be in rap. It is nothing to go crazy over or be offended about unless you are someone who postures him or herself on the importance of authenticity and tries to portray that quality to your fans or the public at large.”
Lupe could have ended his post right there. The Meek Mill vs. Drake debate has disturbing echoes of the conservatism of the “Blurred Lines” trial verdict—it refuses to acknowledge that so much of creativity has always been artful stealing. But Lupe also aimed to put the situation into a larger context. “The commercial realm of music has injured rap,” he wrote. “It set up ambiguous rules and systems for success that don't take into consideration the quality and skill of the rappers craft. It redefined rap as just being a beat driven hook with some words in between and an entire generation has surrendered to chasing the format instead of chasing the art form. While mastering any format should be the pursuit of any self-respecting rapper including the commercial format it must be kept clear that it is just one of many formats and that you should strive to master all of them.”
“I enjoy both these brothers music and find inspiration and appreciation from both of them,” Lupe continued. What’s more, he sees both MCs as contributing to the health and longevity of the genre he loves. And the enduring vitality of rap matters a lot more than who writes what. “At the end of the day,” Lupe noted, “for better or worse, rap is alive—even if some of its greatest moments are written by ghosts.”