What's Free
by Meek Mill (featuring Jay-Z & Rick Ross)

Album: Championships (2018)
Charted: 55 20

Songfacts®:

  • "What's Next" finds Meek Mill hooking up with his MMG boss and frequent collaborator Rick Ross, and also his Roc Nation management boss, Jay-Z. Meek's only previous appearance on wax with Hova was when both rappers were featured together on DJ Khaled's "They Don't Love You No More."
  • The song samples the late Notorious B.I.G.'s 1997 cut "What's Beef." Meek flips the focus from Biggie's original concept of beef to an exploration of the different meanings of modern freedom with an emphasis on social justice.
  • Rick Ross' opening verse appears to mock Tekashi 6ix9ine by using a homophobic slur.

    Screaming gang gang now you wanna rap
    Racketeering charges caught him on a tap
    Lookin' for a bond, lawyers wanna tax
    Purple hair got them fa--ots on your back


    At the time of the song's release, 6ix9ine was incarcerated while awaiting trial on racketeering and firearms charges. The lyric was at best unfortunate and had nothing to do with the track's concept of freedom.
  • Jay-Z's concluding verse finds him rhyming about financial freedom. However it was some bars seemingly directed at Kanye West, which grabbed the attention of the Twiiterati. Many thought Hova was mocking the Chicago rapper's support of Donald Trump.

    No red hat, don't Michael and Prince me and Ye
    They separate you when you got Michael and Prince's DNA


    West has been heavily criticized for his vocal support of President Donald Trump, which included tweeting pictures of him wearing the US leader's red MAGA hat. However, this was not Jay's intention. The legendary rapper explained what he was saying is that he is rejecting people who are trying to pit him against Kanye, even if they disagree about Trump.

    Jay later addressed his verse on Twitter, stating it's not a diss: "The line clearly meant don't pit me against my brothers no matter what our differences are (red hat)."

    Meek Mill explained during an interview with The Guardian that Jay's rhymes weren't directed at West.

    "Jay wasn't talking to Kanye–he was talking to whoever was influencing Kanye," Meek said. "I never viewed that as a diss when I put it on my record."
  • Speaking to Elliott Wilson for Tidal's CRWN interview series, Meek Mill said he likes to use iconic samples as a way to challenge himself. This song is a case in point. "We're rapping over a Biggie beat," he explained. "It's more challenging when you're rapping over something that's already legendary."
  • The song was originally just a Meek Mill and Rick Ross collaboration and was earmarked for the latter's Port of Miami 2 album. However when Jay-Z got to hear the track and expressed an interest in laying down some rhymes, there was a change of plan.

    Jay-Z's finalized verse wasn't submitted until less than a week before the release of Championships. "We been wanting Jay on the album since the beginning," Atlantic Records Senior Vice President of A&R Dallas Martin told Complex UK.

    Martin added that you can't give Hova deadlines and you just hope he carries out his original intention to make a contribution. "Nobody can move Jay-Z," he said. "When he sent back that 44-bar verse, man, we just all lost our minds. We couldn't believe it, man. It was definitely early Christmas for us."

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Strange MagneticsSong Writing

How Bing Crosby, Les Paul, a US Army Signal Corps Officer, and the Nazis helped shape rock and Roll.

British InvasionFact or Fiction

Go beyond The Beatles to see what you know about the British Invasion.

Dino Cazares of Fear FactorySongwriter Interviews

The guitarist/songwriter explains how he came up with his signature sound, and deconstructs some classic Fear Factory songs.

Donnie Iris (Ah! Leah!, The Rapper)Songwriter Interviews

Before "Rap" was a form of music, it was something guys did to pick up girls in nightclubs. Donnie talks about "The Rapper" and reveals the identity of Leah.

Roger McGuinn of The ByrdsSongwriter Interviews

Roger reveals the songwriting formula Clive Davis told him, and if "Eight Miles High" is really about drugs.

AC/DCFact or Fiction

Does Angus really drink himself silly? Did their name come from a sewing machine? See if you can spot the real stories about AC/DC.