L.A.’s food trucks go Hollywood

Secret to success in the food truck biz? Have Sofia Vergara (right) serve up the goods. With his 2014 film “Chef,” Jon Favreau (center) tracks a fictional food truck and its quick-tempered chef.


Editor’s note: This piece, and several others on Los Angeles, complement the CNNGo TV series. This month’s show features a food truck tour with filmmaker and actor Jon Favreau, an L.A. fashion icon’s guide to shopping like a local and a visit to a bar-arcade where kidults flock for drinks and to play on its 40 restored arcade machines: www.cnn.com/cnngo

(CNN) — In a world where the niche-hip is elevated to cultural elite on a weekly basis, it was probably inevitable: the humble taco truck has gone Hollywood.

With the 2014 release of his critically acclaimed film, “Chef,” writer, director, actor Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Swingers”) tracks the journey of a fictional food truck and its quick-tempered chef on its rise from Miami obscurity peddling Cubano sandwiches to a place in the Los Angeles culinary pantheon.

If you think this is a quaint little movie about a minor trend, consider the group that showed up at its table.

A-listers who appear in the movie include Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., John Leguizamo and Sofia Vergara. (As a softie supportive ex playing against hot-headed-temptress type, Vergara might be the most satisfying surprise ingredient in the film.)

Favreau, who wrote, directed and stars in the film as chef Carl Casper, drew inspiration from real life.

The food truck scene has definitely become emblematic of Los Angeles, Favreau tells CNN.

It mixes up Mexican, Korean, Jewish, health food … every kind of culture here. It’s a reflection of and a recombination of the foods and culture that make up the tapestry of L.A.

I eat at as many food trucks as I can

READ: CNNGo in Los Angeles: Hollywood stars, food trucks and bar-cade

Roy Choi a must get

As soon as he finished his script for the film, Favreau says he sought out the consultation services of chef Roy Choi, the unrivaled boss of L.A.’s still-booming food truck scene.

In 2008, Choi created the now ubiquitous Korean barbecue taco and launched it from a truck he dubbed Kogi.

Today, Kogi operates four trucks that roam the city.

Imitators of Choi’s famed Korean barbecue tacos (two crisp corn tortillas, caramelized Korean barbecue short rib meat, salsa roja, cilantro-onion-lime relish, Napa Romaine slaw, chili-soy vinaigrette) can now be found from New York to Hong Kong to Amsterdam.

Rather than being annoyed by the doppelgangers, Choi says he’s honored.

A lot of them (Korean-taco vendors) are putting their own spin on it he says. They don’t call themselves Kogi, so it’s a form of love

DJs all have the same music, the same beats to choose from, it’s which ones you choose and how you mix them up that makes you an original adds Favreau. Food trucks are our bootleg tapes.

Humble sizzle

L.A.’s food trucks are an extension of Southern California’s long-established “taco trucks.”

These are typically plain white trucks that sell cheap and freshly made tacos, quesadillas and other Mexican fast food

Modern food trucks  sometimes owner-operated (as in “Chef”), sometimes run by larger business entities — have taken the mobile food concept and expanded the menu options considerably.

You can now buy everything from acai bowls to greasy burgers to Maine lobster from food trucks.

The shared lineage means the terms “taco truck” and “food truck” are sometimes used interchangeably — but shouldn’t be mistaken for the similar-in-appearance white “catering trucks” (known colloquially as “roach coaches”) that pull up to construction sites, warehouses and office buildings selling pre-packaged sandwiches, bags of chips, candy and beverages to workers.

MORE: ‘Some People Call Me Maurice’: Best Los Angeles theme bars

Apps track trucks

Food trucks travel the city and park at different places and times each day or week.

Of several apps that have been launched to help track their movements, Roaming Hunger is among the most popular.

Many trucks operate their own websites to let fans know where they’ll be on any given day and time.

Kogi, whose four trucks cover all of Los Angeles County, updates its site daily and covers various social media bases.

From the start, social media has been instrumental in the rise of food trucks.

Kogi was established in 2008, shortly after Twitter began to gain mass popularity.

Choi used Twitter to help build interest in his fledgling operation.

One of the most famous results was the day he parked his truck at midnight on the campus of UCLA during finals week.

When he arrived he found almost a thousand students lined up for his tacos.

“Twitter, that’s why Kogi blew up,” he says.

In “Chef,” Favreau imitates the model, with the lead character’s El Jefe food truck getting a huge boost from Twitter popularity.

Four-star parking lot

At L.A.’s The Brig parking lot (1515 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice Beach), a food truck rally is held the first Friday night of each month, usually starting from 6 p.m.

More than a dozen trucks descend on the parking lot, selling everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to Spam musubi to cupcakes.

The parking lot, which Favreau calls ground zero of the L.A. food truck movement, is where Choi first parked his Kogi truck in Los Angeles.

Show up for a First Friday event at The Brig and you’ll see exactly how Hollywood food trucks have gone since then.

Through the crowd of eaters, a squad of valet parkers rushes out to park your car  while you visit a parking lot.

Only in L.A.?

Possibly. But it’s a critical darling that just may be coming soon to a parking lot near you.

MORE: How to be an L.A. local: 8 tips for faking it

Have you got a favorite food truck in Los Angeles or another city? Share your pick in the comments.

Celtic not good enough, says Deila

Celtic boss Ronny Deila said his side were “not good enough” after a 1-0 loss to Maribor saw them exit the Champions League at the play-off stage.

Marcos Tavares took advantage of poor defending for the Slovenian side and condemn Celtic to the Europa League.

We did not lose because of the defending, we lost because we did not create anything,” said Deila.

We hope we can stand in the same position next year with a whole other feeling than I have right now

It was Celtic’s second chance to reach the group stage of the Champions League after they were reinstated into the competition when their second-leg defeat by Legia Warsaw in the previous round was reversed to a 3-0 win after the Poles fielded a suspended player in the last few minutes

We have not been good enough, and we have not deserved to go to the Champions League

Callum McGregor nearly scored against Maribor but he hit the crossbar, while Efe Ambrose and Virgil van Dijk both headed wide from close range and the Dutch defender also had a late shot saved.

Despite those chances however, Deila was left frustrated by the lack of goal-scoring opportunities created at a noisy Celtic Park

The first half was not good enough said the Norwegian. In the second half we were more aggressive and had more chances.

We need to have more tempo on the ball, more movement. That’s the job, it has to start now.

In the end there’s only one thing to say  we have not been good enough, and we have not deserved to go to the Champions League.”

Deila described exiting the tournament as “a hard feeling” and said “the players, the staff and the whole club” must use it as motivation to improve.

I know that we’re going to get a good team and that we need to get some signings, added Deila.

We have some already but we have been a little unlucky with injuries on not only the new signings but also on Scott Brown and James Forrest. By autumn we’ll have a bigger and better squad.

It’s very difficult to get the quality of players that the fans and I want to get with the salaries we have, but we are going to have a signing or two more

Celtic, who will now miss out on the £14m they earned in the competition last season, drop into Friday’s draw for the group stage of the Europa League, and, without the lure of the Champions League, Deila acknowledged he may find it tougher to sign the players he wants

He said: We want to be one place and that’s the Champions League and hopefully we can get there next year

I think players want to play for Celtic. But players who are at the highest level want to stay there, so it will be a player who is still developing and wants to step up.

I think we are a better team now than we were against Legia Warsaw but it’s a long way to talk about Champions League level

Syria used chlorine gas UN

The city of Aleppo (pictured) has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent months


The United Nations has accused the Syrian government of using chemical agents in eight separate incidents in a new report on war crimes there

The UN also says Islamic State (IS) militants carried out frequent public executions that civilians, including children, were forced to watch

Islamic State, which now controls a large part of Syria, is one of the groups fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The conflict is in its fourth year

The period covered in the report coincides with the growth of the Islamic State group in Syria.

The findings are the result of six months of interviews and evidence collected between January and July of this year as part of an inquiry into human rights violations inside Syria

Investigators said that Islamic State (IS) forces in northern Syria are waging a campaign to instil fear, including amputations, public executions and whippings

Bodies of those killed are placed on display for several days, terrorising the local population. Women have been lashed for not abiding by IS’s dress code. In Raqqa, children as young as 10 are being recruited and trained at IS camps the report said

Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the commission, warned of grave implications for the entire region.

The international community’s failure in its most elemental duties  to protect civilians, halt and prevent atrocities and create a path toward accountability has been matched on the ground by an abandonment of even the pretence of an adherence to norms of international law he said

The investigators have warned that there is a real threat that the dangers from the conflict, which have already advanced to Iraq, could spread further across the entire region.

Sir Cliff Richard quizzed by police

Sir Cliff Richard denies a claim of an alleged historical sexual assault


Sir Cliff Richard has been interviewed under caution in connection with an alleged historical sexual offence, South Yorkshire Police has said.

Sir Cliff met officers by appointment and was not arrested or charged.

It comes after police searched his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, on 14 August as part of their investigation

The veteran pop star denies the alleged offence, saying the claim of an assault at a religious event in Sheffield in 1985 is completely false

South Yorkshire Police confirmed it had spoken to a 73-year-old man.

A police spokesman said The man was interviewed under caution but was not arrested He entered South Yorkshire Police premises by arrangement

A spokesman for Sir Cliff said Today Sir Cliff Richard voluntarily met with and was interviewed by members of South Yorkshire Police. He was not arrested or charged

“He co-operated fully with officers and answered the questions put to him

Other than restating that this allegation is completely false and that he will continue to co-operate fully with the police, it would not be appropriate for Sir Cliff to say anything further at this time

The BBC has been criticised for its coverage of the search after it found out about the operation in advance and sent cameras to Sir Cliff’s home when officers arrived

The BBC has previously confirmed that its source relating to the police investigation was not the South Yorkshire force

The BBC says its journalists acted appropriately in its coverage but police have accused the corporation of a cover up afterwards over what it had known.

The bosses of both the BBC and the South Yorkshire Police have been summoned to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee to explain how the broadcaster knew of the search in advance.

The allegation against Sir Cliff relates to an assault claim at an event featuring US preacher Billy Graham at the Bramall Lane stadium in Sheffield in 1985, the BBC understands.

How would Yes vote affect Northern Ireland?

Scotland can be seen from Northern Ireland on a clear day – but not when clouds appear


Scotland and Northern Ireland have a long history of cultural ties and economic links. But if Scotland votes “Yes” to independence in September, how would people in Northern Ireland feel and how might it affect politics?

On a sunny day in the small coastal town of Donaghadee in County Down, south-west Scotland shimmers on the horizon.

There’s barely 20 miles (30km) of narrow sea between the Celtic coasts.

But it’s not just geographical proximity that connects Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Millennia of migration – most famously in the 17th Century, when the plantation of Ulster saw English and Scottish Protestants move over in droves to Northern Ireland – has intertwined their history, culture and language.

There has also been plenty of migration the other way, most notably in the 19th Century around the time of the Irish famine, but also for employment, first in agriculture and then in heavy industry.

Plenty of family ties and friendships still stretch across the water.

If Scotland goes there will be at least a period where unionists will be in some kind of disarray

There are also strong sports links. Glasgow football club Celtic was formed by Irish Catholics who began emigrating to the west of Scotland in the 1840s, while Rangers, which was set up at a similar time, has always been perceived as the Protestant club. Both have a huge fanbase in Northern Ireland and supporters regularly make trips to Scotland.

And there’s a long history of students in Northern Ireland heading to Scottish universities to pursue their studies.

So how do residents of Northern Ireland, some of whom may have stronger connections with Scotland rather than England or Wales, feel about the Scottish referendum?

In a place where politics is dominated by beliefs in unionism and nationalism, and those beliefs are broadly subscribed to along Catholic and Protestant lines respectively, it would be easy to think that Catholics would support a Yes vote and Protestants would push for a No

But there are strong links with Scotland in both Protestant and Catholic communities.

Unionists could, however, go through a whole process of self-examination an identity crisis even if Scotland votes for independence, because the nation is such an important part of the union to which they belong, according to Graham Walker, professor of political history at Belfast’s Queen’s University

If Scotland goes there will be at least a period where unionists will be in some kind of disarray – defensively circling the wagons – wondering how to adapt or see if they can find a way forward politically that maintains their own identity but also their relationship with Scotland, he says.

Sentiment is certainly strong at Belfast’s Sandy Row Rangers Supporters Club, where Saltire and Ulster flags and Glasgow Rangers shirts adorn every wall and the kerbstones outside are painted red, white and blue.

East Belfast community worker Gary Lenaghan, 51, says Northern Ireland’s Scottish links are unbreakable and he would be gobsmacked if Scotland voted for independence.

If that happened I think an influx of people might move from Scotland to the remaining part of the UK to stay in the union, and their first choice of residence would probably be Northern Ireland, he says.

Fellow Rangers supporter Jim Wilson, 62, agrees it would be a massive shock if Scotland voted for independence. If it does, he believes the fall-out might move Scottish politics closer to Northern Ireland’s

Not in a physical violence way, but I can see it turning into saxonised politics voting for pro-union candidates in the future he says

Other unionists are taking steps to try to ensure a “Yes” vote doesn’t happen.

Dr David Hume, director of services at Grand Orange Lodge in Northern Ireland, says he and thousands of the organisation’s members will participate in a Scottish Orange Order march in Edinburgh five days before the Scottish independence referendum.

One hundred years ago the Grand Lodge of Scotland showed very strong support for unionists here when they were opposing home rule, so 100 years on we feel it’s most appropriate we show our support

We see ourselves as Ulster Scots and feel very strongly attached to our friends and relatives in Scotland. It would create a whole range of complexities if Scotland left the union he says

Hume has previously called for people in Northern Ireland with Ulster Scots backgrounds to be given a vote in the referendum but it didn’t come to anything

But while unionists might face a period of mourning if Scotland goes independent, a Yes vote could be an enormous boost for nationalism.

Earlier this year Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the “so-called United Kingdom was held together by a thread that could be unravelled by the referendum in Scotland

The party, which campaigns for Irish unity, has so far stayed out of the debate, saying it’s a matter for the people of Scotland.

Currently support for a united Ireland in Northern Ireland remains relatively low. Last year a BBC Spotlight poll suggested there was a 65% to 17% majority for Northern Ireland remaining in the UK

However, Scottish independence would reinforce nationalist demands for a referendum on a united Ireland a move that is allowed no more than once every seven years under the 1998 Good Friday peace deal

Walker believes there is a divided opinion among nationalists. There is certainly a body that thinks the more the UK breaks up the better that it might increase the chances of a referendum on Irish unity he said

But another body of opinion in the Catholic community would be cannier they’d see the bigger picture, particularly in terms of looking down south and thinking the Dublin government has no wish to see Scotland leave the UK and it wouldn’t really help them in terms of their long-term aspirations in both parts of Ireland

Northern Irish nationalists are also quite hesitant to get involved in the Scottish referendum debate because the Catholic community in Scotland of Irish descent is a bit split on the issue he says.

There would be many in the Catholic community in Scotland who have a strong tribal loyalty to Labour, which I think in most cases translates to a No vote, but there is evidence quite a sizeable number of Labour voters in that community are moving towards independence and the SNP, so it might be they feel they can’t actually say you should go for it

While the knock on effects of a Scottish Yes vote on the politics of Northern Ireland can only be speculated about, there is certainly a sense it could rock the relatively recent stability of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government

There is also some concern the Barnett formula – the method for working out how much money is given for public spending in each of the UK’s nations, which currently sees Northern Ireland get more cash per head than Scotland, Wales or England  might be reconfigured

However for Walker the biggest concern is how unionists might react.

it could stoke loyalism and send it into a tailspin  perhaps around issues like parading and flags, which are so problematic. Some people would fear for the peace process, at least in the short term he says

Ed Sheeran equals male album record

Ed Sheeran performed at the recent V Festival


Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran’s album X has notched up eight weeks at number one, becoming the joint longest chart-topper by a male solo artist.

The last man to achieve the feat was James Blunt for his 2005 collection Back to Bedlam.

It is also the longest-running number one album since Adele’s 21, which had a run of 11 weeks in 2011.

Norwegian singer-songwriters Nico and Vinz retained their spot at the top of the singles chart with Am I Wrong.

Last week, the duo became the first act from Norway since A-ha in 1986 to score a UK chart-topping track.

Canadian band Magic! also held firm at number two with Rude, with OneRepublic’s Love Runs Out completing an unchanged top three.

The highest new entry at four was courtesy of another Canadian act, Kiesza, with Giant In My Heart following up her chart-topper Hideaway.

Back in the album chart, Sam Smith and Dolly Parton traded places behind Ed Sheeran, while US rockers Gaslight Anthem were the highest new entry at four.

They were closely followed by Britain’s Got Talent act Richard and Adam, making their debut at five with At The Movies.

The new greatest hits collection from female group The Saturdays landed at number 10, while Irish singer Sinead O’Connor’s 10th studio album I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss was new at 22.

Source: Official Charts Company

1. Am I Wrong – Nico and Vinz

1. X – Ed Sheeran

2. Rude – Magic!

2. In the Lonely Hour – Sam Smith

3. Love Runs Out – OneRepublic

3. Blue Smoke – Dolly Parton

4. Giant In My Heart – Kiesza

4. Get Hurt – Gaslight Anthem

5. Ghost – Ella Henderson

5. At The Movies – Richard and Adam

Daughter strangled alcoholic mother

Rebecca Durkin was found not guilty of her mother’s murder


A teenager has been detained for strangling her alcoholic mother after a row at their Merseyside home.

Clancy Durkin, 55, was found dead at Guildford Road, Southport in January.

Rebecca Durkin, 19, was cleared of murder by a jury at Liverpool Crown Court, but she admitted manslaughter.

Sentencing her to four years and eight months at a youth offenders institution, Judge Clement Goldstone QC said she had suffered “long-term cruelty” at the hands of her mother.

“You did your best for each other, but you suffered long-term cruelty at her hands.

Her addiction to alcohol clouded her judgement Judge Goldstone, the Recorder of Liverpool, told her

You’d had enough and that is something you will have to live with for the rest of your life

During her trial, Rebecca Durkin said she had not intended to kill her mother but she lost control.

The Crown Prosecution (CPS) said Clancy had a “troubled relationship” with her daughter.

The two women argued frequently and Clancy told relatives she thought Rebecca was going to kill her, the CPS said.

It said her mother had called staff at Southport College, where her daughter was a student, claiming Rebecca had tried to smother her.

Rebecca confided in friends she had tried to kill her mother and had attempted suicide because of the problems she was having with her mother, the CPS said.

Claire Lindley, from the CPS, said This is a tragic case where alcohol has no doubt played a part in the relationship Rebecca had with her mother.

Rebecca Durkin had been receiving counselling to help her with the relationship, but in January this year she took her mother’s life and she must now come to terms with the consequences of that

Det Ch Insp Dave Rooney said it was a case with no winners

What was clear during the investigation, that despite all the difficulties in her life, Clancy was a caring individual who gave a great deal to those around her.

I know from my dealings with them, she will be sadly missed by her siblings, friends and work colleagues

PM defends clear Iraq strategy

David Cameron Britain is not going to get involved in another war in Iraq

Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted the government’s position on Iraq is “clear” and said the UK would not deploy “boots on the ground

The BBC’s Paul Wood has met victims of the crisis in Syria and Iraq

Mr Fallon said the RAF had now deployed the Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft alongside Tornado bombers to provide vital intelligence on IS movements across Iraq.

Troops from the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire regiment had been sent into the Kurdish capital Irbil for 24 hours to prepare the ground for a possible rescue mission by the helicopters.

They have now left but British special forces are still believed to be in northern Iraq.

£650m

paid for three spy planes from US

500mph+ speed

3,900-mile range (6,500km)

131ft wingspan (40m)

21-27 mission crew including up to 3 pilots, 2 navigators, maintenance technicians and intelligence operators

Mr Fallon said Britain could also provide equipment such as body armour and night vision goggles to Kurdish forces.

For Labour, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: It is important to understand the nature of the mission that British forces are now engaged in

He called for clarity from the government but added: We have supported the steps that the British government, along with other European allies, have taken

Conservative MP Rory Stewart, chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, questioned whether extra troops could bring peace to Iraq.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: This idea that there is somehow some grand military scheme which it simply takes the willpower and money to achieve, I am not convinced by. We would need to see what on earth that plan is

Thousands of Christians and Yazidis have fled their homes to escape IS fighters. IS has also persecuted Shia Muslims, whom it does not regard as true Muslims

Kurdish officials said the next objective was to clear IS fighters from the Nineveh plain, north west of Baghdad, to ensure the return of minorities

The secret ghostwriters of Hip Hop

Grandmaster Caz


The practice of ghostwriting is one of rap’s biggest taboos, and yet many of its greatest hits were ghostwritten. So who are Hip Hop’s ghostwriters and what place do they have in a style of music built on speaking from the heart?

In most genres of music, including Soul, R&B and Pop, being a songwriter is a legitimate career, but in Hip Hop, writing for another rapper has long been something to hide.

It was Chuck D from Public Enemy who described rap as “CNN for black people.” Emerging from the poverty and deprivation of New York’s South Bronx neighbourhood in the 1970s, rap gave the voiceless a voice. Because of this, rappers have a unique reputation to uphold. They have to be authentic, telling stories about their own individual worlds. They have to keep it real

We expect it to be personal, we expect it to be from the heart and straight from that individual’s experience says Underground UK rapper Jehst. Others put it more strongly. It’s a travesty, anybody who calls themselves an MC and doesn’t write their rhyme  no way you can even stand in the same room as an MC if you don’t write your rhyme, plain  simple says Grandmaster Caz, born Curtis Fisher, who made his name as Casanova Fly in legendary MC battles during the 1970s.

Teenagers like Grandmaster Caz held street parties, each with their own sound system, in which MCs (Masters of Ceremonies) tried to out-do each other to impress. “We were going for glory, we were trying to be superheroes,” says Grandmaster Caz.

“It was of the utmost urgency and importancy, if you called yourself a true MC in the early days, then you had to be able to write rhymes, you had to be able to rock a crowd, you had to be able to eliminate your opponent.”

Despite this, he became most famous for a song he did not perform.

The story goes back to when he was part of the group Mighty Force, managed by his friend Big Bank Hank, real name Henry Jackson. Big Bank Hank had borrowed money from his parents to improve the group’s sound system, and was paying back the loan with a job in a pizza shop. One day, while he was singing along to one of Casanova Fly’s tapes at the pizza shop, in walked the legendary Sylvia Robinson, from the influential Sugar Hill Records label. She was forming a new group and asked Big Bank Hank to audition for her there and then. This should have been his cue to say he managed one of the best MCs in the Bronx – but he didn’t. “He just took the lyrics that were on the tape,” says Grandmaster Caz. “They loved it and they made him part of the group on the spot.”

The song in question was Rapper’s Delight, which became the genre’s first commercial hit, bringing Hip Hop – then a largely counter-culture movement – out of the ghetto and into the mainstream. Big Bank Hank’s use of Casanova Fly’s lines is obvious from the lyrics, which will be familiar to many:

Check it out, I’m the C-A-S-A, the N-O-V-A / And the rest is F-L-Y / You see I go by the code of the doctor of the mix / And these reasons I’ll tell you why / You see, I’m six foot one, and I’m loads of fun.

“He was so much not an MC, he didn’t even know enough to change the words around to spell his own name,” says Grandmaster Caz. “He just copied it word for word – he said: “I’m six foot one” – he’s not, I’m six foot one. Everything in the rhyme describes me. I’m unwittingly Hip Hop’s first ghostwriter.”

Perhaps the speed of events overtook Big Bank Hank, but for Grandmaster Caz, it still rankles. “I was part of one of the most important records of all time, and that should be acknowledged,” he says.

As part of the Mighty Force group, perhaps Big Bank Hank did feel ownership over some of the lyrics. In the 1999 documentary The Hip Hop Years, Big Bank Hank said he understood Grandmaster Caz’s frustration. “I can understand why he would say that and I have nothing but love for him,” he says. “Because he didn’t move to that magnitude and because I couldn’t bring him in. But some of the stuff was done together and I just transposed it over.”

Kathy Iandoli, music editor for the website Hip Hop DX, says ghostwriting in rap can be “anything from shouting a word or two in the studio, to legitimately writing a whole song” and it’s this murky area that creates tension and rumours – who really wrote that lyric? In the early days, the only thing at stake was a rapper’s street credibility, but as Hip Hop gained more currency there was a fortune to be made.

One of the best-known ghetto-to-riches stories is that of Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace, aka the Notorious B.I.G. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York where he was out selling drugs from the age of twelve. Hip Hop changed his life.

Now my whole crew is loungin’ celebrating every day / no more public housing / thinking back on my one room shack / now my Mom pimps a Ac’ with minks on her back. [Ac’ is short for Acura, a luxury line of cars made by Honda.]

The multi-millionaire rapper and entrepreneur Jay Z (Shawn Carter) has also rapped about how he chose music over drug-dealing. Just know I chose my own fate / I drove by the fork in the road and went straight. Instead of hustling drugs, he used his business skills to sell music – Bricks to billboards, grams to Grammys.

When the real talent is being hidden in the broom closet while the performer is out there entertaining guests at the house party, that’s a little shady”

And big money inevitably changed more than just the suits in the so-called “shiny-suit” era of the mid-90s. “When the tax bracket shifted for the Hip Hop artist, everything changed,” says Iandoli. “It was an open conversation that certain acts didn’t write their own rhymes but they were making the hits.”

In his 2001 song Bad Boy For Life, the Hip Hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs boasts “Don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write cheques” – thereby celebrating his money-making over his skills as a rapper.

One of the biggest hits of all time, I’ll Be Missing You – Comb’s Grammy-award-winning ode to his friend Biggie Smalls – was the work of the ghostwriter Sauce Money. He grew up as Todd Gaither in Brooklyn’s projects alongside Jay Z, who inspired him to start writing. After Biggie Smalls was shot in 1997, the hip hop world was in mourning, and Biggie’s good friend and label-mate Combs – then known as Puff Daddy – was looking for someone to help him write a tribute. Jay Z felt too raw to do it himself so he put Combs in touch with Sauce Money, who had lost his mother a few years earlier and channelled his emotions into the lyrics.

Sauce Money remembers when Combs first heard the song. He was blown away because it was everything he wanted to say he says. It’s almost like being an actor  I became him, and once I became him I knew what he would want to say to Big in remembrance

Iandoli remembers that the release of the record polarised opinion. As much of a monster hit as it was, I think it also was controversial because Diddy didn’t write it, she says. It was almost like having someone write a eulogy for when your best friend passed away. The hip hop purist would look at that and say, you really couldn’t write that song? But when you can’t write a song, you can’t write a song

Sauce Money wasn’t invited to the Grammy awards, but the record made his name, and he was well paid. It branded me as an A List ghostwriter he says I was lucky enough to get my money and my publishing.” But not everybody gets such a good deal.

The need for invisibility means that ghostwriters aren’t always listed on the album credits or given royalties, and instead are often paid one-off fees for their work. Iandoli suggests that because of this, it’s difficult to know exactly how much ghostwriting goes on. A lot of deals are being struck under the table. Publishing credits with certain artists are not being handed out because of the street credibility, she says. But I think because so many artists are so wealthy, when they know there’s a hit they’ll pass hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands. That kind of exchange of money without the proper documentation is what exists nowadays

In 2012 one of the most highly regarded lyricists in Hip Hop  Nas  was accused of using other people help write his rhymes. Nas denied the allegations in a radio interview. You know who’s my ghostwriters? My friends, people I meet on the street somebody will say something that sparks something in me so I get it from everybody, he said on Power 106 FM.

But according to the BBC’s DJ Semtex collaboration is not only something that artists do all the time, it’s actually a good thing. “If by the end of the session you’ve only written 50% of the track, is that a bad thing? It’s you being smart as an MC, it’s you constructing other people’s opinions, getting their contributions and turning it into a banger,” he says.

Hip hop glossary

Certainly, collaborations with ghostwriters can be fruitful and allow rappers to flex a different kind of muscle.

Hailing from the infamous Corona neighbourhood in Queens, Nathanial Wilson, better known as Kool G Rap, became famous for his violent lyrics depicting the reality of the criminal underworlds of the late 1980s. His songs have often been heavily misogynistic – the track Hey Mister describes a violent attack on a lying girlfriend: She started coppin’ a plea but I ain’t really tryin’ to hear her / I snatched her by her hand, bashed her face up in the mirror.

Not everyone is equipped to be a lyricist, not everyone is equipped to be a vocalist

This makes it hard to believe that Kool G Rap was a ghostwriter for the female rapper Roxanne Shante and the all-female Hip Hop group Salt-N-Pepa. The track he wrote for them, Chick on the Side, tells the story of a cheating boyfriend from a female perspective: I finally caught on to your little game / Your lying and denying is a cryin’ shame / You took me for granted, this is the end, dammit / You’re playing the field like you’re some (love bandit)

Blogger and label owner Frank Miller says it’s not unusual for established acts to look to younger talent in order to help them stay relevant and ahead of the game.

When artists are under pressure to pump out the hits, they often need a team around them  including writers  he says. Once you’re on a mainstream stage and you’re such a money-generating entity, art isn’t the focus, it becomes business and product,” he says. “You want the best minds you can afford all in the same room and bouncing ideas off each other, and the avatar representing all that hard work is the artist

Miller says the young writer benefits by getting a foothold in the industry. But on balance it’s the established acts that get most out of the relationship

There are artists that have been around for 20 or 30 years now that are running out of gas, and they see some new talent and they are like: I have the resources and you have the talent, let’s put it together and keep me limping along, he says. It’s a shame it has to be that way, that young artists coming with new music that connects to their generation have to go through these old gatekeepers to have that platform.

But then not everyone can make it as a performer. Not everyone is equipped to be a lyricist, not everyone is equipped to be a vocalist, as Chuck D has put it.

Kool G Rap says that at the early stage in his career when he worked with Salt N Pepa he was just happy to have the chance to realise his talent as a writer.

And he respects those who are able to convincingly spit [rap] other people’s lyrics. I can’t take away from the artists that deliver lyrics from other writers, he says. I can’t knock it because it still takes a certain type of person to deliver that

Iandoli agrees. When it comes to the quintessential hip hop artist, that person has to have a combination of lyrics and skill and swag and charisma. That’s ideal, that’s Jay Z. Artists like that are one in a million.

Miller suggests ghostwriting is becoming less of a taboo, but it’s still a concealed industry, which leaves it open to exploitation. It’s fine when people are being credited for their work, he says, but when the real talent is being hidden in the broom closet while the performer is out there entertaining guests at the house party, that’s a little shady.

Some mainstream rappers hang on to the tradition of writing their own lyrics. When Nicki Minaj picked up her prize for Best Female Hip Hop Artist at this year’s Black Entertainment TV awards she said: When you hear Nicki Minaj spit, Nicki Minaj wrote it… I’m still one of the only MC’s that’s out here spitting metaphors and making you think. She ended with the hope that authenticity would continue to be honoured.

But Hip Hop has moved on so much that even though the legacy of honest, raw writing is still a selling point, the reality is very different