3 Songs with False Credits So Artists’ Family and Friends Earn Royalties

Veterans of the music business know all the tricks of the trade. One of those tricks is exemplified by the three artists below. Ever savvy, these artists made it so that their friends or family members would forever benefit from their musical creations—even though those friends and family didn’t write or produce the music.

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After all, royalties last forever, right? So, why shouldn’t those close to the artists get a piece even after the original songwriters are long gone?

Below are three songs with false writing credits so that others would earn money via royalties long into the future.

1. Stillmatic, Nas

Released in 2001, Nas’s fifth studio album, Stillmatic, which opened with his historic diss track, “Ether,” listed Nas’ then-seven year old daughter, Destiny Jones, as one of its executive producers. The idea was that, as the classic record from the classic rap artist continued to sell over time, Jones would constantly have the benefit of royalties. No matter what, she’d have the safety net, a type of lifelong allowance from the recording. The record sold nearly 350,000 copies in its debut week, hitting No. 5 on the Billboard 200. Not a bad present from the father, who himself is the son of a jazz musician, Olu Dara.

Jones later commented about the record on social media, writing on Instagram about a year ago, “Happy 16th Birthday Stillmatic! The first album I ever executive produced! And at only 7 years old lol.”

2. “No Woman, No Cry,” Bob Marley

The classic reggae song includes the songwriting credit for another writer, Vincent Ford, also known as “Tata,” who was a Jamaican songwriter who was wheelchair-bound. Ford, a legend in his country, also ran a soup kitchen, a place where Marley would hang out. The two were friends. So much so that Marley historian Roger Steffens has reported that Marley said in a 1975 Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation interview that he wrote “No Woman, No Cry” while tuning his guitar in Ford’s yard.

Another Marley biographer, Vivien Goldman, asked Ford in the late 1970s, “Was it you?” who wrote “No Woman, No Cry” and other songs (Ford’s name is on a handful of Marley tracks). Ford responded: “Well, what do you think?”

But while Marley went uncredited on the writing, it was for a couple of reasons. The first was that he wanted Ford (and other friends and family he’d credited on certain songs) to earn royalties for the tracks. In Ford’s case, to keep the soup kitchen alive. (Ford passed away in 2008, whereas Marley passed away in 1981).

Goldman wrote, “[‘No Woman, No Cry’] may very well have been a conversation that they had sitting around one night. That’s the way Bob’s creativity worked. In the end, it didn’t matter. The point is Bob wanted him to have the money.” That’s what friends are for.

The other reason Marley didn’t put his name on important songs like “No Woman, No Cry” was because he likely wanted to avoid contractual obligations with record execs. This eventually turned into a legal battle. But in the end, Marley’s estate won and got total control of his catalog (even if his name wasn’t listed as the primary writer as in the case of “No Woman, No Cry”).

3. “Levitate,” Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s 2016 song “​untitled 07 | 2014-2016,” also known as “Levitate,” includes the name Egypt Daoud Dean in its production credits. As American Songwriter pointed out, at the time the song was made, Dean was five years old. So, one might wonder, why did Lamar choose to include Dean’s name? How much could he have done, really?

Dean, the first of two kids of Alicia Keys and producer Swiss Beatz, was at Super Bowl 50 in 2016 in Santa Clara, California, with his father. At the game the young Dean and Lamar shared a conversation, said Beatz in an interview with Jennifer Hudson.

“They kicked it off at the Super Bowl game, and I looked and him and Kendrick was talking for like 40 minutes,” Swizz told Hudson. “I went over and said to Kendrick, ‘Is he bothering you? Should I move him? I know you enjoying yourself.’ He said, ‘No. Swizz, I had writer’s block and what Egypt is telling me is helping me deal with something.’ I was like, ‘Well man, he’s five years old.’ Still to this day, I don’t know what he was helping him deal with, but I let it happen. He definitely charged him. Egypt got some money off that record.”

After that conversation, Lamar put out his album untitled unmastered, and on it the song, “​untitled 07 | 2014-2016,” a two-part track, saw Beatz earn a production credit along with his son. Dean later developed a liking for music following his talk with Lamar. At 11-years-old he appeared on a song with his mom (Keys), “Over The Rainbow,” which appeared on her 2021 EP, Sweet Dreams.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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