By Eddie J., Contributing Writer
So, anytime a hip-hop/rap or R&B artist who may or may not have some kind of credibility as a lyricist releases a new record, these click-bait "X Amount of Writers are Credited on ____'s New Album" articles always seem to pop up. The purpose is usually to subliminally invalidate the artist's skill-set and fuel debates on whether they're talented or not. It's been done with Kanye West (The Life of Pablo had 103 writers), Beyoncé (Lemonade=72 writers) and now Drake (Views=81 writers). That sounds like a lot of Pablos, views and gallons of lemonade, but hold up! There's a little technicality to be mindful of. Not even half of the individuals listed did any literal writing. To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if no more than 10 people actually assisted. Let me explain...
Often in hip-hop/rap and R&B, there's this cute thing called sampling that happens, where portions of a song by someone else are mixed in. When this is done, the song and its original writers typically have to be cited for legality's sake (e.g., "This song contains replayed elements from 'You Tried It' by Tamar Braxton"). Those few of us who still buy physical copies (and read liner notes) and others who frequent Wikipedia, see these sample lists. The remaining majority who don't are prime takers of the click-bait and pass it along to the other fish that such and such artist doesn't write their own rhymes or can't stand on their own.
Take Drake's "U with Me" (featured on Views) for example. It contains samples of "What These B*tches Want" and an interpolation of "How's It Goin' Down," both by DMX. Breaking this down, "What These B*ches Want" was written by Earl Simmons (DMX's real name), Mark Andrews, Tamir Ruffin and Phillip Weatherspoon. "How's It Goin Down" was written by DMX and Anthony Fields. When you remove those names from "U With Me" in the credits, you have only Drake, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Dave Goode and the producers: 40, Kanye West, DJ Dahi, AxlFolie and Vinylz. 13 writers just went down 8.
This brings me to my next point: also in hip-hop music, producers are almost always included as songwriters in the notes. This is probably in part to how hands-on producers are in creating the music or melodic ideas the artist uses. Taking into account how limited credits are in showing the true extent of each person's contribution, a "producer" can be a composer, someone who programmed the drums, or made with the chorus melody that the song was developed around. In that case, it makes sense to consider this kind of work "writing." However, this doesn't mean that Drake, Nicki Minaj or Kanye West are sitting in a room full of 10 other people taking different bits and pieces of lyrics to make a song. These times are occasional, and rarely involve more than 2 or 3 people tops, which is the average amount of writers on a song in any genre.
Finally, some rappers are simply best at their primary job of rapping and need to bring in help for choruses, hooks and catchy moments in their verses. Just because one can receive points on a song for doing this, it doesn't mean the artist they worked for is lacking talent or capability. It's assumed that hooks are easy to form, but it requires a particular skill. It's fairly uncommon in the realm of hip-hop/rap that artists can come up with great hooks naturally because their focus is choosing a topic, inventively approaching said topic, punch-lines, voice inflections/delivery, rhyme structure/pattern and verse variation. It may take a village for your favorite song or album to be made, but that never has anything to do with how good or bad the artist is at lyricism or overall. So feel free to take this red pill with a tall glass of lemonade, and enjoy the views.