"Dedicated, determined, and discipline" is a lyric nestled on the backend of Meek Mill's 2015 album Dreams Worth More Than Money. The sharp line of alliteration sounds like a tagline you might see on a Nike ad, but Meek isn't an athlete — even as his unflappable approach to life resembles a boxer's.
When life shoved him against the ropes, Meek fought back. Whether it was the unwarranted arrest for popping a wheelie on his bike in 2017 or his rap battle against Drake, Meek's kept a strong chin, absorbing life's massive hits and bouncing back.
His fighter's mentality has brought him into the world of boxing; he serves as the executive producer for the DAZN and Roc Nation-helmed 40 Days: Joshua-Ruiz docu-series starring heavyweight scrappers Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr. A fan of Mike Tyson and his brute force, Meek recalls how the fighter's beastly approach in the ring first made him a fan of the sport.
"I probably fell in love with boxing when I used to watch Mike Tyson," he says, after downing a plate of chicken wings and fries at Jay-Z's 40/40 Club in downtown New York City. "I remember watching his one-round fights and him knocking people out all the time. I loved that era."
40 Days chronicles Joshua and Ruiz Jr.'s grueling two-month training session ahead of their June 1 match at Madison Square Garden. Tonight, Meek is playing host to a room of boxing aficionados, which include New York MCs Casanova and Jadakiss, to play back the first three episodes that were previously premiered on his YouTube channel.
"You can find boxing fans in many walks of life," says John Skipper, the executive chairman of the video-streaming service DAZN. "We thought it would be intriguing to seek out fans from other sports, music, and entertainment to put their spin on the rigors of training and 'it's produced some terrific content to date."
Ahead of Saturday night's fight, Meek briefly spoke to Billboard about executive producing 40 Days, how preparing for a boxing match is similar to making an album and how he was touched by Nipsey Hussle's "Higher."
What made you decide to step in as executive producer for 40 Days?
You know me, I got another documentary coming out also, too. It's on Amazon. It's called Free Meek and it's about reforming my life. So you know, I've been trying to step into the executive producing world and get my hands on things I like. Boxing is one of my favorite sports, of course. So why not?
40 Days is an eight-week look into the preparation of a fight. How is preparing for a boxing match similar to prepping for an album?
You gotta be relentless. I go to the studio for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks. You gotta train for weeks and weeks and weeks and you can't give up, you gotta keep practicing and get stronger and stronger. That's what I do and that's what boxers do.
You've been hanging out with Anthony Joshua throughout the making of 40 Days. What traits do you see in him that remind you of yourself?
He's definitely a grinder. He's a hustler that came from worser conditions than there are now and he used his talents to make it out of that. We both did the same thing.
How confident are you in the city of Philly in terms of talent, since the emergence of Tierra Whack, Pink Sweat$ and PnB Rock?
Philly, I think we're coming up fast. We got a lot [talent]. Like you said, we got Tierra Whack. You also got Rocky, Pound$ide Pop, Kur, OMelli. What other young boys we got? We got Zah Sossa.
Are any of those artists going to open up for you on the second leg of The Motivation Tour?
We picked Rocky. She's like the hottest female, and Pound$ide Pop. He's a young bull that been moving and coming around us a lot. There was a lot people I was looking at, but I know those two personally. So I decided to give them a shot and will be bringing them onstage.
I was just talking to Jadakiss and that reminded me on Twitter how you said you need to get back into the studio with him. What is it about Jada that makes him such a strong MC after more than 20 years in the game?
He's been having the best verses for a long time, probably for about 15, 20 years. Kiss, he's relatable. I grew up in the streets and there were times when I couldn't relate to Jay-Z, but I could relate to Kiss because he was just more relatable to me a certain ages of what I was going through. Jay-Z was more advanced, so I had to get older to connect.
Lately, you've found a real niche in doing records like "Dangerous," "24/7," "Fall Thru" and even "You Stay" with DJ Khaled. How have you been able to get comfortable in that lane as opposed to when you first started in the game?
Shit. With the ladies, I travel a lot and I get a lot of love from them. They always used to tell me probably like two years ago, 'You don't really make enough songs for us. You always make a lot of street shit.' [Laughs.] Two years later, they turn around and now I'm cooking something up for them.
It's funny because I remember you used to say you'll leave the girl songs for Wale since you were always the one doing the street records.
They was always complaining that I wasn't giving them enough so I started giving it to them.
Like a lot of people, you're still grieving for Nipsey. What did you think watching Khaled's "Higher" video?
It definitely gave me the chills seeing it, too. It felt like a going away song for Nip. It felt like a choir-singing kind of song. You know, Nip was on there talking and just seeing Nip on the video since he passed away was just devastating too. So of course, it gave me chills.
James Harden told me in a past interview that he heard some of the tracks you two worked on together. Are you still considering putting that project out?
We'll drop it one day, but we just ain't wanna focus on it early into this death and try to capitalize off him losing his life. We wanted to let that die down and let his family get straight.
You seem like you're in a great place right now especially with all the wins you've been racking up.
Everything is going great. This is one of my greatest years I believe. We're doing great things. Everything about it is great. The money is great and yeah, I'm feeling real good.