There are a majority of rappers today that do not write their rhymes in a traditional sense, like not in a journal or a physical notebook. A lot of rappers’ text their lyrics in their phone, freestyle in the booth, or have their rhymes written for them. In the early years of Hip Hop, freestyling and battle rhymes had a time and place as to not disrupt the art whether it be the music, graffiti, dee jaying, or breakdancing. However, even then emcees wrote their rhymes on paper because people actually went around stealing other people’s rhymes. Especially if you’re from a different borough. If you have siblings, your young brother or sister was definitely spitting your verses. So today as Hip Hop moves into a digital space physical pen and paper seem to be a thing of the past. In this digital age there is no way to know who wrote what unless you’re looking at their invoices.
Recently well respected and legendary emcee Rakim was doing a radio interview where he was asked about another rapper’s interview where he indicated that he wrote a song for Rakim. MC Serch claims that former Def Jam executive Lyor Cohen asked him to write a song for Ra during the Follow the Leader era. Serch goes on to say that upon delivering the opening line to Eric B. the phone hung up almost simultaneously. Since then MC Serch has not backpedaled, but called out the radio personality for starting a small fire in the woods of Rap. Now, without the storied ending the radio host asks Rakim if he has ever had a ghostwriter. Now if you do not know who Rakim is he is the emcee gold, platinum, and rose gold “drip” if you will, of Hip Hop Culture. To even imply that anyone even took a breath for Rakim would be absurd. So of course, Rakim reacts as any emcee dubbed the greatest of all time would yet in a way that we’ve never seen him previously. For those that don’t know Rakim literally “ain’t no joke” in the streets either. Taking aim at his pen is not taken lightly as it could ruin everything this man has built for himself out of New York.
Similar to hieroglyphics, these rhymes if strong enough to stand the tests of time will live on forever. Thousands of years from now when people are listening to “Rap Music”, Rakim will be a name that is written in the history books that we strive to transcribe today. Rakim, like many wordsmiths, wrote a book where he describes the inspiration behind his lyrics. That will live on forever, studied by Hip Hop scholars, part of a curriculum, and a bigger picture. You see Lil Wayne and 2PAC having their handwriting being sold at auctions for hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. People want words…on paper…that they can read, something tangible and real. As emcees you should want your rhymes to live on thousands of years past your lifetime. There is only one life to live and I plan on living forever, word up.
“In this journey you’re the journal, I’m the journalist.” – Rakim (Follow the Leader)