Meek Mill has gone through hell-and-back right before our eyes. After Judge Genece Brinkley unjustly sentenced him to two to four years for probation violation, the #FreeMeek movement went from a hashtag to marches in the street. The judge clearly meant to make an example out of Meek, and she succeeded. Only, not in the way that she intended. His legal situation opened up a bigger dialogue for the need for change and Meek soon became the face of criminal justice reform. Now, on his first studio album since his release, Meek Mill comes for a Championship ring after facing many setbacks.

The anticipation for albums from high-profile artists always come with lofty expectations. Not necessarily from a critic perspective, but from a content perspective. Take Drake for example: following Pusha T’s scathing diss track, “The Story Of Adidon,” everyone expected the Toronto rapper to address his secret child and confirm whether the allegations were true. Meek, on the other hand, has been a victim of the flawed criminal justice system for the entirety of his adult life, a story that is far too common among minority communities. Although Meek had been incarcerated prior, his most recent bid felt like it could’ve put his career to a screeching halt.

“It was some bullshit they got him on, but you know like, he gon’ be back even stronger man,” Boosie Badazz, who once faced the death penalty for a murder charge, predicted about Meek’s career. And it was proven true when Meek, with the help of his billionaire friends, was released from prison and immediately boarded a helicopter to head to Game 5 of the 76ers vs. Heat game in his hometown of Philadelphia.

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CHAMPIONSHIPS is the culmination of the trials and tribulations faced between 2017’s Wins And Losses and today. Prior to his last album, Meek Mill was in a highly publicized relationship with Nicki Minaj, as well as a war of words with Drake. Drake and Meek have since squashed their beef and collaborated on CHAMPIONSHIPS. At the time he released his third album, Meek Mill was the “walking L” to many, but Wins And Losses found Meek embracing his victories and defeats in equal measure, examining how they helped shaped him into the person he is today.

On CHAMPIONSHIPS, Meek Mill has come to terms with his position as the underdog, and what’s more, embraced it. Within the past year, the same man who was labeled a “walking L” became the people’s champ for the downtrodden and stepped on. To no fault of his own, the rapper continuously faced setbacks in, not only life but his career, thanks to his ongoing legal battle that has kept him on probation since he was 18-year-old. In that sense, CHAMPIONSHIPS is a celebration of overcoming adversity. Over the course of 19-tracks, Meek Mill acknowledges that, while the system set him up for failure, he ultimately succeeded. He’s giving those who’ve experienced similar injustices a glimmer of hope.

Following his release from prison, Meek was honored with Billboard’s inaugural R&B/Hip-Hop Power Players Award for his efforts as the face of the criminal justice reform and shining a light on the matter. It might be a long battle, but within a few short months since his release, Meek’s done extraordinary work and has helped many understand the dire need for prison reform.

“And in the 13th amendment, it don’t say that we kings/ They say that we legally slaves if we go to the bing/ They told Kaep stand up if you wanna play for a team/ And all his teammates ain’t saying a thing/ If you don’t stand for nothing, you gon’ fall for something/ And in the 60’s if you  kneeled, you’d probably be killed/ But they don’t kill you now, they just take out of a deal,” Meek raps on “Trauma,” comparing his situation to Kaepernick’s while committing to bringing change to the system.

Meek is a 31-year-old man now, and he has clearly taken on the position of a rap elder. A role that basically was thrusted upon him given his circumstances, to be sure. He is up for the challenge that comes with such a position, though, as he shares gems of wisdom he’s received through real-life experience as well as older homies-- which for Meek means Jay-Z and Rick Ross-- both of whom stood by his side throughout his incarceration, while serving as mentors during his career. The two OG’s featured on one of the most important songs on the album, “What’s Free” which focuses on addressing the justice system, giving back to the community and systemic racism.

“Two fifty a show and they still think I’m selling crack/ When you bring my name up to the judge, just tell ‘em facts/ Tell him how we fundin’ all these kids to go to college/ Tell him how we ceasin’ all these wars, stoppin’ violence/ Tryna fix the system and the way that they designed it,” Meek passionately spits on his collaboration with Ross and Hov.

CHAMPIONSHIPS isn’t simply Meek Mill’s effort to join the conversation for “Album Of The Year” or debut at #1 on the Billboard 200. It’s deeper than rap. Meek’s insight into the struggles he faced in his life is a relatable story, but unfortunately, as he suggested on “Oodles O’ Noodles Babies,” not everyone will make it out. Meek still provides a glimpse of light for anyone in the struggle, firmly cementing himself as the voice for the people.