Meek Mill addressed Jay-Z’s headlining-generating “What’s Free” verse during a recent CNN interview, explaining that the guest rapper wasn’t shaming Kanye West for frequently wearing one of President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats.
On the track, which appears on Mill’s recently issued fourth LP, Champions, Jay-Z rhymes, “No red hat, don’t Michael and Prince me and ‘Ye/ They separate you when you got Michael and Prince’s DNA.” Many fans speculated that the line was crafted as a West diss – a theory he himself debunked, tweeting, “The line clearly meant don’t pit me against my brothers no matter what our differences are (red hat).”
After CNN host Michael Smerconish suggested that Jay-Z “goes after Kanye” on the song, Mill clarified the intended message. “I don’t think he really goes after Kanye,” he said. “I think he actually just says, ‘Don’t let him separate us like they did Michael Jackson and Prince,’ basically. Kanye came out of nowhere and just went ‘red hat,’ and that was kind of like against everything we represent … I don’t know what [West] represents, but coming up in the hip-hop community, we came up fighting and fighting for our rights for a long time. What that red hat represents doesn’t really represent what we’ve been fighting for our whole lives.”
Mill noted that he didn’t discuss the content of Jay-Z’s verse before he recorded it. “I didn’t talk to him about it – I just was like, ‘Yo, I had dreams my whole life of having a Jay-Z verse, being able to rap with Jay-Z, who I view as the greatest of all time,'” he said. “Whatever he did, I was just going to accept it, and that’s what he gave me … and I was happy with that.”
Throughout the CNN interview, the emcee – who was released from prison in April – also discussed the importance of criminal justice reform.
“A lot of people who go back in and out of prison are being stuck by a parole system or a probation system where not even committing crimes puts you back in prison,” he said. “I learned from personal experience. I actually spent time with men that had 28 months in prison for $100 bail, and they weren’t even found guilty for their crimes, and $100 kept them in prison. We as taxpayers, even myself, had to pay money to keep guys like this in prison. It was for, like, a petty crime. So things like that never made sense to me. Even being on probation – I’ve been on probation since I was 19 years old. I’m 31 years old. Growing up in the system, I always thought this was normal, and I didn’t value myself the way that I value myself now.”