JAY-Z Takes Down Donald Trump In A Song Fueled By Beef
This morning (November 30), Meek Mill released his highly-anticipated Championships album. A year ago this month, few could have imagined that the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania MC could be victorious in much of anything. Although last year’s Wins & Losses garnered acclaim, the Maybach Music Group star was in serious legal trouble that derailed his career and his earnings. Meek’s high-profile relationship with Nicki Minaj dissolved. He also admitted to battling a pill addiction. Just a couple of years of being the loser (in many fans’ eyes) to Drake in a battle he initiated, Meek Mill’s career went from a dirt-bike wheelie to a wipeout.
From behind the bars of a Chester, Pennsylvania prison, Meek Mill became a figurehead for a movement to change the criminal justice system. Sent away for what many perceived as minor infractions, Meek’s case was examined closely. Investigative reports suggested that Meek’s presiding judge had it out for him, with opinions on the music he makes and personal requests. Perhaps more notably, a separate investigation looked at the police team that apprehended Meek years ago, when his career was taking form. Corruption and brutality marred the charges that Robert Rimeek Miller was still paying for. JAY-Z and Roc Nation, along with Meek’s Atlantic Records led #FreeMeek campaigns in Philly and across the country. Everybody from Philly District Attorney Larry Krasner to Drake joined the party. When the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl, “Dreams & Nightmares” was the soundtrack.
In April, the rapper came home—released early. He left prison for a helicopter ride, on top, and in powerful company. On the outside, Meek has continued to rally just like the people calling for his freedom. The issues of the crazy journey are center-stage on “What’s Free,” a standout cut within Championships, featuring Rick Ross and JAY-Z.
The song flips The Notorious B.I.G.’s 21-year-old “What’s Beef?” a song that addressed conflicts with a real examination of the word. Streetrunner and Tarik Azzouz rework the Hitmen-produced original. While Meek addresses justice reform and urges people to be mindful of where they get their information. Mill’s MMG homie Ross follows with the flavor that only he can bring, but it is Jay who gives Heads another stop-the-presses moment.
“No red hat, don’t Michael and Prince me and Ye / They separate you when you got Michael and Prince’s DNA,” Jay spits. He is addressing the media separating him from Kanye. Comparing him and his Watch The Throne partner to the perceived chasm between the 1980s’ masters, Michael Jackson and Prince, he wants people not to do it—even if they do not line up politically for the moment. By mentioning “DNA,” Jay also seems to scoff at another Black-on-Black beef narrative. However, Hov does have shots in his verse—aimed squarely at the man who made the red hat. The bars that follow are: “I ain’t one of these house-n**as you bought / My house like a resort, my house bigger than yours / My spou-c’mon, man / My route better, of course.” Jay, a master of the subliminal, may have lured some to assume he is going at Kanye—who spoke about Beyoncé publicly in some disparaging ways. However, Trump, who poked fun at spouses including Ted Cruz’s partner, also fits the bill. Jay seems to be comparing his own sprawling mansion to The White House.
Beyond who he is addressing, Jay drops one of his finest verses of the last year. Continuing some of his 4:44 narratives from 2016, Hov attacks racism, history, and offers a blueprint to freedom. “They gave us pork and pig intestines / Sh*t you discarded that we ingested, we made the project a wave You came back, reinvested and gentrified it / Took ni**as’ sense of pride, now how that’s free? / And the people stole their soul and hit ni**as with 360s, huh / I ain’t got a billion streams, got a billion dollars / Inflating numbers like we ‘posed to be happy about this / We was praised in Billboard, but we were young / Now I look at Billboard like, ‘Is you dumb?’” The song touts Jay’s ownership stakes, with him laying out the percentages and opportunities that he provides as a very real boss. It’s not just beef, Shawn Carter is fighting for freedom.
As Heads debate Jay’s target, Ross’ verse apparently swings some hefty shots at the currently-detained Tekashi 6ix9ine. “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 f*ggots on your back.”
While many anticipated the latest Drake and Meek collaboration to be the conversation piece, “What’s Free?” begs to differ.
“What’s Free” is also part of the official Ambrosia For Heads playlist: