Adding the title “corporate co-owner” to his résumé, the rapper, entrepreneur, and criminal-justice-reform advocate Meek Mill is making his first move into the world of corporate ownership with an investment in the sports-apparel retailer Lids, he announced Wednesday in an exclusive interview with Business Insider.
Mill, whose real name is Robert Williams, will become a co-owner of Lids, North America’s largest retail seller of hats and licensed sports products. He’ll also lead the company’s creative strategy and release a limited-edition line of hats through the brand in August.
Mill joins the Lids ownership team by way of his close connection with Michael Rubin, the co-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, the executive chairman of the sports retailer Fanatics, and a cofounder of Mill’s Reform Alliance Foundation for criminal-justice reform. (Lids’ ownership includes Rubin’s Fanatics and the investment firm Ames Watson, which acquired Lids in February.)
In a phone interview with Business Insider, Mill discussed his approach to the new venture with Lids and reflected on how he had “studied” and looked to model his business acumen on that of Jay-Z, Mill’s Roc Nation label boss, collaborator, and cofounder in Reform.
We also briefly touched on Mill’s approach to his coming music and his Amazon docuseries, “Free Meek,” which is set to premiere in August and depicts Mill’s experiences with the criminal-justice system, through his controversial imprisonment in 2017, his release in 2018, and his subsequent advocacy work through Reform.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
John Lynch: This partnership with Lids sounds like a dope opportunity, but what made this the right move for you at this time?
Meek Mill: You know, this is my boss year. A lot of what I’m doing, I’m trying to get ownership in a lot of things to where I can still live comfortable the way I was living in my prime years as a rapper. I’m just trying to build a foundation of some good businesses that’ll keep me living good. And, Lids, I’ve been shopping at Lids my whole life, wearing hats, fitteds, of course, fitted hats and caps, all types of hats. In our culture, it’s been a big thing. So, it was something I ain’t have to think twice about and always believed in, that it’ll work.
Lynch: As a creative, what do you want to bring to the table creatively with this company?
Mill: I will have to sit down at some point and go through it. But, you know, in the hip-hop game, I have a lot of influence, and I can see things kind of clearer. I would definitely love to involve our whole culture in Lids more. Because, first thing we do in merchandise in hip-hop, we sell hats, we sell all types of things. And, you know, I have the leverage to actually bring the two together even more. I know they’ve probably collaborated before, but you know, bring the culture, and get it involved more.
Lynch: You’ve spent a lot of time in the past year working closely with a “billionaire from Marcy.” What have you taken away from Jay’s perspective on business in the conversations you’ve had?
Mill: He’s just a different type of guy. He’s about his business. He’s never late, he’s on point. He’s checking on his business every chance he gets. Basically, I’ve seen Jay-Z, and then I’ve watched other artists who came up around his time. He actually built something. He built businesses, and he built things that made him become the man who he is, that we could call a billionaire guy. He built that, and I watched that, and I studied that. That’s why I’m working the way I’m working now to build a foundation for myself too.
Lynch: I’ve got to ask about “Free Meek,” this Amazon series. It looks really well done. What impact do you hope that’ll have on society or the people who see it?
Mill: If you’re not informed about it, if you don’t have any understanding of the system and the flaws of the system, I hope it’ll open your eyes and give you a taste of what’s going on in life. We have so many different outlets now to actually expose some of the flaws in the system, and if you’re a good person, really open your eyes, and the world’s eyes, to what’s going on, through my experience.
Lynch: Has your experience of the past few years changed your perspective of the moves you wanted to make after it?
Mill: What you mean by that?
Lynch: Like this Lids move here. Have you … You said this is your boss year.
Mill: Oh, yeah. No, I was planning for this really. I’ve been in the music industry since I was 23 years old. I’m grateful to be in it at 32 years old. So I thought around this time I would become the more … I thought I would do it earlier, but you know I had a bunch of bumps in the road. But I knew I would get to the point where I would get on my boss year, where I became a boss and started making my mark in business, every way I that could, anything I was interested in. I knew it would come at one point. It didn’t just start in the last few years.
Lynch: Do you still get any time to be in the studio, or are you too busy with all of this? You’ve got a lot going on it sounds like.
Mill: Yeah, I get a lot of time to be in the studio. I think I’m spending too much time in the studio, just working too much, bruh.
Lynch: How do you think you’ll follow up your seminal album here, “Championships,” which went platinum. How do you approach that?
Mill: I don’t even know. That’s what I’m in the mix of finding out, you know what I mean? Coming off that, it’s only been probably eight months, seven months, something like that. So I’m just trying to figure out how I’ll come back and impress the people, keep people intrigued with what I have to say.