Twitter is aflame with staunch defenders and giddy retweets regarding the supposed “exposure” of world famous “having-you-in-your-feelings” Toronto rapper Drake. Philly heavyweight Meek Mill shared some shade-filled tweets claiming that Drake does not write his own rhymes and we all gleefully watched our timelines as his rants continued. But this convo gives way to something that fascinates me more than accusations about authenticity because it overlooks something crucial — star power.

What are we to make of the fact that, in the best-case scenario for Meek Mill, he is telling the truth. That Drake does in fact have people write his songs. Those writers are still not capable of making a song the same way Drake can and, in the end, the “ness” Drake offers on his tracks are still his. A lot of people get caught up in the authenticity of rap. As a fan I understand this. We want so badly to believe that rap and hip-hop music are somehow the last bastions of true music. Real stories from real people, sharing real feelings maybe in real time, just hopping in the booth rhyming their hearts out and letting their stream of consciousness take you somewhere you’ve never been, like only a poetic genius could.

But the fantasy we have created around rap is one of the things I would argue hurts the genre. For one, rap music is one of the most popular forms of pop music to date. Hip hop generates so much star power and revenue that it would be foolish to overlook it as one of, if not the most important trendsetting arm of pop music in general. Everyone looks to hip hop to see what they should be doing, what producers they should work with and how to borrow from hip hop to become more popular with a larger audience and signify how cool they are (eyeball emojis to T.Swift, Miley and many, many others). With that in mind, it’s only natural to assume that hip hop’s biggest stars enlist help as they work to perfect their craft for the highest quality product.

Excellent writers always have incredible editors. That’s because writing, no matter the talent of an individual writer, is a collaborative process. Just like making music. No art form exists in a vacuum and hip hop should be no different. Some of the most profound rap projects we’ve seen have been extensive collaborations bending the rules on who made what to the point where the only thing that matters is the end product. Kanye West cleared the air on why this is wonderful and necessary awhile ago when he was making “All Day.” He had over 14 people help him to craft “All of the Lights,” one of the best rap songs (in my mind) in the past 10 years. And what is most remarkable about Kanye is his perfectionism. He introduced hip hop to the idea of making songs palatial in scope and sound. With My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy he took rap to a cinematic level where collaboration was a must. If we demanded that Kanye operate on a lone genius level we would have missed out on one of the greatest rap albums ever made.

Which brings us back to Drake. In the same vein of Kanye and other forward-thinking artists, Drake is a master at developing a thematic project that makes you feel like you’re following him in the six with his woes wearing Canada goose down, stomping around in the snow in Timbs .That level of quality and the consistency and the poignancy of his music is on such a high level that it would be strange to assume it was the work of one man. But that doesn’t take away from the end product, which we all identify as Drake. Perhaps Drake is the cumulative expression of OVO as a whole and Aubrey Graham lends his voice, charisma, spunk, sensitivity and vocals to create the upper echelon of the collective’s aspirational goals, like an Oscar Award winning actor. No matter what, that does not change the fact that only Drake can take the script, work collaboratively and take his music scene to a higher level. He is the front man, even if he does not stand alone. But why do we require that rappers have to work alone, when we see plain as day through their entourages, various producers, random squads and so on that they don’t?

When you hear a song by one of your favorite artists, no matter the genre, you imagine the one singing is speaking to you. You might feel touched. You might even credit a song for moving you in a deep way and associate the singer with having delivered you from whatever moment you were in to a higher, more imaginative place. There’s a strong likelihood you don’t flip to the credits to come down off the high of realizing the voice you are hearing did not write the words to the song. Because it doesn’t matter. The person who wrote the song could not make the song sing the way the music icons we know and love can and do. None of this takes away from the performance of the songs we hear.

Music, above all, is about the performance. It’s about the visceral connection of hearing a voice. Lyrics matter a great deal, but what good are compelling lyrics with a so-so delivery? Let’s say, for arguments sake, that Meek Mill is right and Drake doesn’t write most of his songs. Are we supposed to be less impressed with him for being able to memorize raps that seem like his own, rap them perfectly, excitedly and emotionally enough to compel an enormous following, while changing the way we think about emotions within rap and beyond? How does Drake not writing change what Drake has done for rap culture if all the other things about Drake are true?

For me, there is no change. No matter what, Drake is still himself regardless of who he credits for certain lines or entire songs. If Drake is an example of what perfection looks like when a group of people get in the studio and make remarkable, cohesive projects consistently for a number of years, then I would argue rap should change the way it thinks about authenticity and view the genre for what it is, one of the greatest black storytelling mechanisms we have. I would also argue that hip-hop artists should work together more to produce higher quality music overall. The way I see it, this one-sided Twitter beef gives us an opportunity to rethink the way we discuss collaboration in music in general, and rap music in particular. Art collaboration usually leads to more diversity of thought, new and interesting ideas and boundary pushing. In order for hip hop to survive and remain compelling, it is bound to have to change its rigid rules.

Hip hop changed the way everyone thought about music and the way many people thought about black people. It is first and foremost a genre-bending, borrowing art form by nature of constant sampling and repurposing, so why wouldn’t rappers also use one another to write borrowed rhymes on borrowed tracks? If we can manage to step back and view hip hop as a space for limitless creativity, why can’t we envision some rappers merely as front men for great cadres of music-making about our collective experience? Doing so would free a lot of creative people, eliminate fear of exposure and we could all just get back to the music. I am not suggesting we ignore the particulars, but there is room to entertain a new era in rap where we worry less about who wrote and more about if the music is moving the culture forward and keeping everyone on their toes and anticipating what’s next. Even in that regard, Drake is still winning and all Meek Mill did with his tweets is ensure that everyone will keep tuning in to watch the Drake channel.

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