Ari Melber is a national Hip Hop treasure at this point. Not only does the MSNBC anchor continue to shine a spotlight on legendary artists, he also stands up for important issues so often overlooked by other media outlets.
Case in point, as the Thanksgiving holiday dredged up its dark history, Melber took it upon himself to dissect JAY-Z’s verse on Meek Mill’s “What’s Free” single. The song, which arrived on the Roc Nation artist’s Championships album in 2018, celebrated its four-year anniversary on November 30.
During Melber’s report, he interpreted the verse within its “poetic and historical context”—from JAY-Z’s juxtaposition of the National Anthem and Thanksgiving with American slavery, the 3/5’s compromise and genocide to the implications of racism and housing policies across generational wealth.
Speaking to AllHipHop, Melber further expounded on the topic and explained what was so intriguing about JAY-Z’s verse in the first place.
“In politics, the ‘history wars’ have been heating up lately—what to teach in textbooks, which statues should come down or stay up, is Thanksgiving a historically accurate ritual, what the national anthem really says or claims and how much deference that’s owed,” Melber said. “Hip Hop has offered an alternative and often deeper history for a long time, and Jay’s ‘What’s Free’ history lesson—one his most political verses—is so relevant right now.
“He was calling out the National Anthem and Thanksgiving before many, and in such an intricate way. I don’t know how many people observe ‘song anniversaries,’ but this week is the anniversary, so it felt like a good time to dig back into it.”
Melber broke down another JAY-Z verse in August, around the same time DJ Khaled released his GOD DID album. The title track, which features contributions from Hov, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Fridayy and John Legend, captivated Melber so much that he did an 11-minute dissection on The Beat.
JAY-Z evidently appreciated it so much he uploaded it to his TIDAL account as an official track. Revisit it below and watch Melber’s latest above.