Meek Mill’s first offering since his highly-publicized stint in prison is an effective sampler of what’s to come.
The beef with Drake never meant that much to Meek Mill. A seasoned battler rapper from the streets of Philly, Meek had been racking up his wins ever since his first devastating loss as a pre-teen. He wasn’t looking to rap battle with the Canadian actor; he was merely questioning his authenticity in a genre predicated by character and principle. However, The Internet always wins and Drake is, for all intents and purposes, The Internet.
It's fair to guess that Meek was probably more concerned with his rocky relationship with the ever-eccentric Nicki Minaj and, of course, the fact that he was still being hounded for charges he caught at the age of 19. Despite those original charges being brought forth by a historically corrupt officer, they have followed the upstanding rapper well into his adulthood, blockading his ability to create jobs and support his community by perpetually placing him on probation. In August 2017, Instagram footage of the rapper popping wheelies on a dirt bike led the NYPD to arrest him on charges of “reckless endangerment," sending Meek to Pennsylvania’s Graterford Correctional Facility, possibly for 2-4 years.
Thankfully, after nearly six months of vigilant support from his fans (including those in his hometown as well as far-reaching influencers like Robert Kraft), the King is back; after these tumultuous few years, Legends of the Summer, Meek Mill’s first offering since his highly-publicized stint in prison, is an effective sampler of what’s to come.
Since his fervent raps are often a rebuke of the status quo, Meek’s music has always managed to elicit a visceral response. “Millidelphia”, the Swizz Beatz produced intro, plays like the soundtrack to his incredible release from prison, where he got helicoptered straight to the series-clinching game five for the Sixers. He makes peripheral references to his legal issues (“Fuck 12 and the cops”; “They was screaming "Free Meek!"/Now Meek free, judge tryna hold me”), choosing instead to use most of the runtime for what could be perceived as self-adulation (“I'ma icon living/Jumping on the chopper outta prison,” he quips at one point). But what makes Meek brilliant is his ability to reconcile his success with his upbringing and turn ostensible materialism into undeniable protest. Swizz Beatz sums it up perfectly: “I bought a Rolls Royce just to burn that shit.”
The uninitiated may credit Meek Mill’s content as of late to his newfound position as a spokesperson for prison reform, but his narrative has never shied away from highlighting White America’s iron-grip on the lives of those it deems expendable. Meek’s continued growth as an artist has brought him a long way from the days of “House Party” or “Ima Boss." Last year’s Wins & Losses single, “Young Black America”, sees him rapping: “Could've been a lawyer until they came and shackled you/Felons on your records so them jobs ain't gettin' back at you.” If anything, Meek’s focus and vigor have simply been rejuvenated.
The school-to-prison pipeline is a harsh reality for millions in this country, and Meek is now even more acutely aware of his role in dismantling this oppressive system of laws.”Stay Woke”, the song that Meek immortalized at the BET Awards with a riveting performance, is a sprawling decree of a number of societal issues. In the span of one song, Meek attempts to touch on racism, corruption, gun violence, drug addiction. The conviction is piercing; the Philadelphia native is fully aware of the cyclic nature of demonizing those who come from a background similar to his. In today’s youth, Meek sees a future that could have been his and we all collectively shudder at the thought of those who don’t have access to the same means as a now-successful Meek Mill.
This EP is a mixed bag of potential smash hits. While the standouts here are clearly the politically-charged opening and closing tracks, “Dangerous” and “1am” are both engaging in their own right (the latter of which sees him reunited with longtime friend & producer, Jahlil Beats). This ability to bounce between romantic and renegade has always made him a captivating writer. However, the bar for his quote-unquote comeback has understandably been set much higher than what a four-track EP could ever achieve.
Still, Meek manages to deliver a great set of songs that will bide him the summer (so that he can go get that verse Hov owes him).