Young Guru Spills The Tea On Jay-Z's "What's Free" Verse
Young Guru, who literally handle the mix and mastering on Meek Mill’s latest Championships release, talked to Vibe about Jay-Z’s verse on “What’s Free” among other things. But Guru wasn’t alone for the one-off experiment; he had fellow studio engineer Anthony Cruz on hand, to tell the story.
For those unfamiliar with the situation, Cruz was an audio/video technician working at Jigga’s 40-40 sports bar when he got the call that changed the course of his career – by then Young Guru had already established himself as one of the best “sound guys” in the industry. The rest was history.
Although Guru and Cruz displayed their partnership throughout Meek’s comeback, none of their efforts proved more “in-synch” than their work on the Jiggaman-assisted “What’s Free,” a song many that consisted made light of a Kanye West retort of some kind (you be the judge).
The creative process all started when StreetRunner, co-producer on the record, shopped the beat to Meek Mill, who as you can guess, was instantly drawn to the record, so arrangements with Rick Ross were quickly made for a studio session. He too was ultimately drawn to the record, but nothing came of it, but a productive back-and-forth; the recording process would come sometime later.
After deliberating for months, Rick Ross and Meek Mill found the legal runaround to get the song out in the World, but everyone agreed that something “important” was thereby lacking in the draft they came up with. It wasn’t until the 11th hour of the albums unveiling that Jay-Z added his name to the project, much like Drake with his last-minute submission for “Going Bad.” Young Guru was in South Africa to attend the Global Citizen show with Beyonce and Jigga when he broached the subject. This is how he summed it up, from there:
“Basically, we went in and did that verse. You get creative in terms of trying to do drops, trying to do interesting things with the beat and with the sample. And it’s being careful and being respectful. It’s one of the classic Biggie songs so you want to do it justice, but you also want to give it a new twist. I think it was a great verse, a great time, and the right placement of the verse for the topic of what Meek has been preaching and advocating with criminal justice reform. Just the title and concept of being free, I think all of them came at it from a different perspective but were very poignant in the way they expressed their vision of what’s free.”
Anthony Cruz openly stated that Young Guru’s recruitment to the Championships roster was done to give the album that “classic Roc-A-Fella feel,” which explains why some are calling it “the greatest NY rap album produced by a Philly artist.”