Political tirades, controversial tweets, and questionable interviews. Three things that are now synonymous with a Kanye West album release. The build up to Yahndi, Kanye’s sixth project of 2018, has featured all of these and more. From a pro-Trump speech on SNL that had to be cut from the air to deleting all of his social media accounts, again, he certainly is a master of drumming up a media circus to ensure the commercial success of his albums. One tweet however seems to have slipped by unnoticed that needs to be addressed.
On September 30th Kanye tweeted: “Pardison Fontaine wrote the Violent Crimes verses. I changed 2 lines. He wrote the entire song though. Cyhi Cons Pardi. The ghost in the industry”. What he’s saying here is that the song Violent Crimes on his solo album Ye was ghostwritten. Not just the hook, or the chorus, but the song in its entirety.
Ghostwriting is no longer as uncommon or as taboo as it once was with high profile rappers such as Snoop Dogg and Nas admitting to using them. What sets the common usage apart from what Kanye is saying though is the type of song.
Will Smith’s Grammy Award winning song ‘Gettin’ Jiggy wit It’ is a prime example of the commonly acceptable usage of a ghostwriter, in this case allegedly Nas. With lyrics about fast cars, pretty girls, and bottomless pockets, it’s a classic late 90’s rap song. One that could have been performed, although perhaps not as well, by any other rapper.
Violent Crimes is different. The lyrics are profoundly personal. A journey of self-exploration about being a father, and the world he sees his daughter growing up into. For example this line near the start of his verse, “’cause now I see women as somethin’ to nurture. Not somethin’ to conquer”, shows that Kanye is coming to terms with how he used to see women, how his mindset has changed since having a daughter.
The fact that this song wasn’t written by Kanye is shocking. It means that Fontaine not only wrote about Kanye’s inner feelings, but also from his perspective, as if he was Kanye. Several questions spring up from this. Does Kanye feel the things he rapped about? If this is where ghostwriting is now where could it go? A whole album? A whole discography?
Back on solid ground one of two situations most likely happened surrounding this song, with one being far more unsettling than the other. Either Kanye accepts that he, as primarily a producer, lacks the ability to weave a lyrical narrative as personal as he wanted and so brought in Fontaine. They explored the direction Kanye wanted to take the song, the things he wanted to say, and the overall message, then Fontaine went and wrote the verse to that specification.
In this situation the heart and soul of the song is Kanye’s, he just sought aid in making the song as emotionally charged as it was. Now the alternative is that Kanye didn’t have this long conversation with Fontaine, only giving the topics of fatherhood and women, that he doesn’t truly believes the lyrics, and that he betrayed the trust of fans who believed they were getting to hear the real Kanye.
The resulting question is which situation is the right one? Regardless this is a surprising revelation especially given the nature of the song and it will surely cause people to pay a bit more attention with his future projects. Without an answer though it seems that this will just have to be another test of faith for Kanye West fans. After the announced delay of Yandhi while West goes to Africa to finish the album, there won’t be a long wait for more controversy.