The ghostwriting debate in hip-hop is always healthy. Some artists and fans alike think that having writing help discredits the overall product. On his 2015 track, “King Kunta,” Kendrick Lamar scoffed at rappers for having co-creators. But even K-Dot’s OG Dr. Dre has summoned people to contribute their pen for his own songs. Tracks like Dre’s “Still D.R.E.” was written by Jay-Z.
For decades now, talented creatives have worked behind the scenes to ensure the best result. Years ago, ghostwriters never came into the spotlight. These days, it’s a bit different since many songwriters who have helped out other artists on a track are artists themselves. They’ve moved into the spotlight on their own accord, and information on artists they’ve written for comes out later on. Or they’ve been in the writing credits all along, but it’s not disclosed what parts of the actual song they assisted with. So with their growing respect, it’s only right these writers, whether publicly known or in the cut, are awarded their flowers, too.
The Hotties know Pardison Fontaine for being Megan Thee Stallion’s boyfriend, but outside of the devoted fan base, Pardi is an established rapper himself and one of the current respected songwriters in the game. In addition to dropping his own album, Under8ed, in 2019, he’s given a helping hand to diamond-selling songs like Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” and “I Like It,” scored top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 by way of Kanye West’s “Yikes” and won a Grammy award last year for his work on Meg’s “Savage (Remix)” with Beyoncé.
Speaking of commercial success, the game’s top dog Drake has never really shied away from collaborating on lyrics. Everyone remembers when If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late dropped in 2015, and the ghostwriting fiasco that ensued in the months following. Meek Mill’s Twitter fingers are to thank for that. Quentin Miller got his shine as a result. And on that same project, OVO signee PARTYNEXTDOOR established himself as an esteemed writer, too, penning “Legend.” Later, he really flexed his muscle and crafted the six-times platinum-selling hit “Wild Thoughts” by DJ Khaled, Rihanna and Bryson Tiller, also known as Pen Griffey himself.
Moreover, Ye signed one the most talented scribes in music when he picked up CyHi, formerly know as CyHi The Prynce, along the line. Cy, who’s working on his own upcoming album, The Story Of EGOT, made his loudest roar when he gained writing credits on The Life of Pablo standouts “Father Stretch My Hands,” “Famous” and “Wolves.” Just a few years after that, it was revealed that he also helped Travis Scott pen some of his most successful project yet in Astroworld. The G.O.O.D. Music seed provided his artistry on tracks “Coffee Bean” and “Stargazing.”
These behind-the-scenes prophets have an undefeated pen game. Looking back at the last decade, check out the biggest hip-hop stars and their ghostwriters.
After meeting through a mutual friend back in the mid-2010s, Quentin Miller got the chance to work on Drake’s pace-switching If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late in 2015. Miller collaborated with Drizzy on the project standouts “Know Yourself,” “10 Bands,” “No Tellin” and the Lil Wayne-assisted “Used To.” Though he received writing credits for his lyrical additions, Meek Mill tried to expose Miller for being Drake’s ghostwriter in a classic Twitter rant. But even though it was done with the intention of throwing shade, Meek’s call-out also doubled as promotion and introduced Quentin’s name and talent to the world.
Quentin Miller has since gone on record to say that he has ill feelings toward how that entire situation played out, but he’s also attributed his proven pen to tracks like Wiz Khalifa’s “Letterman,” G-Eazy and Gunna’s “I Wanna Rock” plus Nas’ “The Pressure,” off of the Grammy-nominated King’s Disease II, in the ensuing years. On top of his own solo efforts, Miller has also secured features with acts like Gucci Mane, Hit-Boy and Spillage Village in recent times, further proving that he’s a go-to collaborator in the game of rap.
Cardi B struck gold with her major-label debut single “Bodak Yellow” in 2017. When sorting through the writing credits on the diamond-selling track, the name Jordan Thorpe, also known as Pardison Fontaine, is visible and has been throughout her small, yet highly successful catalog. After that successful collab, Pardi was additionally tapped to contribute to her debut album, Invasion of Privacy, in 2018, writing on tracks like “I Like It” with J. Balvin and Bad Bunny, “Best Life” featuring Chance The Rapper and “I Do,” which has vocal contributions from SZA. Each track on the Grammy award-winning project is certified platinum or higher.
That same year, Pardi assisted on Kanye West’s eighth studio album, Ye, for tracks “All Mine” with Ty Dolla $ign and Ant Clemons, “Wouldn’t Leave” featuring TY$ again and “Violent Crimes,” among others. Although he helped Ye on “Violent Crimes,” Soaring even higher, Pardi went on to win another Grammy for his work on Megan Thee Stallion and Beyonce’s hit “Savage (Remix).” He also contributed to the Lil Nas X-Bardi collabo “Rodeo” and “Wap” by Meg and Cardi, all released over the last couple of years. Furthermore, Pardi’s track record includes legit smashes with over a dozen artists from G-Eazy to Ed Sheeran’s rap tracks. Talk about range.
Throughout the years, CyHi has solidified himself as Kanye West and G.O.O.D. Music’s secret weapon. On top of his own solo career that touts him as one of the best lyricists in modern-day times, CyHi’s golden pen has reigned supreme on a number of classic rap efforts. Starting over a decade ago in 2010, CyHi both rapped and wrote on the G.O.O.D. Friday release “Christmas In Harlem” and the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy cut “So Appalled.” Later in 2012, he put in work on “The Morning,” from the home team’s compilation Cruel Summer as he simultaneously established his position in hip-hop.
Throughout the 2010s, he continued to make big-time contributions to a number of Yeezus tracks (including “Blood On The Leaves” and Bound 2”) before hitting an even bigger stride with his work on The Life of Pablo. On the joint, CyHi is credited with writing on four gems named “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1,” “Highlights,” “Ultralight Beam” and “Famous.” Elsewhere in the late 2010s, CyHi penned bars on Drake’s More Life track “Glow” and Kanye’s Ye records “All Mine” and “No Mistakes,” plus more.
Most notably, CyHi sent the internet into a frenzy once it was revealed that he helped pen multiple tracks on Travis Scott’s Grammy-nominated heat pack Astroworld, released in 2018. Songs like “Coffee Bean” and “Sicko Mode” serve as just two of the reference points in that regard. Ending the decade, Cy’s pen earned him a gospel Grammy for the lyrics he wrote on Jesus Is King by Kanye West, adding sauce to tracks like “Selah,” “On God” and “Everything We Need.” What a track record.
PARTYNEXTDOOR helped transcend the sound of contemporary R&B alongside The Weeknd in the early 2010s. But as a Flow God, his work in the hip-hop community should be held in the same high regard. The first project PARTY really established his footing on was Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late in 2015. The OVO signee wrote on one of Drizzy’s best intros on “Legend” and worked on “Preach.” About a year later, he also helped his boss craft his best-selling album to date with Views, adding that good ol’ PND pen to tracks like “With You” featuring Jeremih. Also in 2016, it’s worth noting that PARTY began working with Rihanna, writing songs like “Sex With Me” and the dance classic “Work” with Drizzy.
As he was steadily dropping a three-peat of undeniable solo projects, PARTY’s brand as a songwriter continued to flourish as the decade went on. Tapping back in with RiRi, PND went on to write DJ Khaled’s smash hit “Wild Thoughts” in 2017, which also featured Bryson Tiller. And leveling up even more, he’s also responsible for writing on “Shining” by Jay-Z and Beyoncé, which was also a strong-handed DJ Khaled album cut from that year. PND followed up by co-creating on both Drake and Kanye West’s 2018 albums Scorpion and Ye. For those who are unaware, PARTY helped string together lyrics on tracks like “Elevate” and “Ratchet Happy Birthday.” As well as “Ghost Town” and “Wouldn’t Leave” from the latter effort. Proving his versatility even more, PND also contributed to Jay Electronica’s “The Blinding” with Travis Scott off of A Written Testimony in 2020. It’s clear that PARTYNEXTDOOR’s pen knows no bounds.
Njia Charles’ pen has been on fire nearly a decade. Her success in rap was sparked back in 2017, when she contributed lyrics to Kid Ink’s “F with U” featuring Ty Dolla $ign. Once she got her foot in the door, she kicked it off the hinges. In 2018, she helped write platinum-selling tracks for Cardi B, including “Ring” with Kehlani and “I Do” with SZA. And earned a Grammy for her contribution to Invasion of Privacy, the project that those tracks were housed. Additionally, she pushed pen on Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s collaborative album, The Carters (“LoveHappy” and “Heard About Us”), Meek Mill’s Championships (“24/7″ with Ella Mai, “Uptown Vibes” featuring Anuel AA and Fabolous, plus the Cardi B-featured “On Me”) and 21 Savage’s I Am > I Was (“A&T” featuring the City Girls), among others.
Having already proved herself, the following years were just as fruitful. Some of her biggest wins, and best believe that there are plenty, came when she co-wrote on Drake and Chris Brown’s party favorite “No Guidance,” Young Thug and Chris Brown’s joint mixtape, Slime & B, for songs like “She Bumped Her Head” featuring Gunna, Latto’s Queen of Da Souf (“Sex Lies” with Lil Baby) and Thugger’s chart-topping Slime Language 2 album, contributing to “No Surprise” featuring Don Toliver & B Slime. Reaching further in her catalog reveals that she’s written for DJ Khaled, BIA and Mustard. Her biggest win so far this year is the writing credits she received on Megan Thee Stallion and Dua Lipa’s cross-genre song “Sweetest Pie.” If this tells you anything, it’s that more is to be expected in the near future.