Meek Mill attempts to re-align the narrative that's surrounded, and followed him, with his new album, "Wins and Losses."
Over the past few years, Meek Mill has become the butt of countless jokes and in many eyes his claim to fame is "losing" his rap beef with Drake and his highly-publicized relationship with Nicki Minaj. This is a rather unfair and unfortunate circumstance for the North Philly rhymer, because the focus has been moved away from his music, and directed solely towards his private life and shaky public relations. Somehow, in the process, Meek became regarded as one of the biggest villains in the rap game. By acknowledging the setbacks he's faced in his life-- not just as of late-- Wins and Losses appears to be Meek's attempt at re-aligning the narrative, away from from his internet presence, and back towards his real life and accompanied art.
The strength of this album comes more from the And Losses aspects of the work. Meek Mill’s music, traditionally, is chock-full of overwhelming confidence, often acting as a celebration of his wealth and status. These aspects are still prevalent throughout this new body of work, but the entirety of the work is colored by melancholy. The pitfalls of fame, success, and the violence of the streets are very tangible through out Wins and Losses, there is a sadness that permeates even the most triumphant of the records on the tape.
In typical Meek Mill fashion however, the Wins and Losses title track starts the album off with a blustered force-- it could have very well come from any one of Meek's previous pieces of work. Similarly, the album doesn’t offer much more topical diversity from prior projects. Meek: used to sell coke, had an incredibly hard life, is really rich now. The differences appear in the moments of vulnerability that pop up throughout the album. These moments are primarily found in the R&B tinge that he takes on songs like, "Whatever You Need,” “Fall Through," and “Issues,” however, they also appear in the seemingly celebratory “Never Lose” and “We Ball.” While it’s hard to know who he’s talking about on these songs, the type of affection detailed in “Fall Through” and “Whatever You Need” seem to be more indicative of his complicated feelings towards Nicki Minaj than the more simply dismissive “1942 Flows” which has lyrics like, "Cut her off act like she dead and it’s killing her." "So when you see me out don’t ask me about no Nicki,/ Fuck I look like talking bout my business on Wendy?" This latter kind of talk seems to be more a means of masking his hurt rather than being truly sincere.
Despite a clear and concise theme as an album title, the project also lacks the necessary cohesion demanded of its hour-long length. There are quite a few features on the album, (including but not limited to Quavo, Rick Ross, Future, Lil Uzi Vert, Young Thug, and more) and all of the contributions are welcome because they do add a diversity to the album, but in some cases it feels as if Meek veers too far outside of his lane, and as a result, he sounds like he’s the featured artist. Additionally the album is split between vague (but still graphic) love songs and turn-up club anthems which suggest that as, both a person and an artist, Meek Mill is struggling to re-establish his identity. Yo Gotti perhaps says it best on "Connect the Dot’s" when he raps: "The goal is to leave the hood but can’t forget where you’re from."
It is certainly interesting, however, to see Meek experiment with different styles, such as the melodic "We Ball," which features the enigmatic Young Thug. The problem with some of these divergences is that the way he takes on the characteristics of his featured artists, it tends to make Meek sound more generic than he actually is. "We Ball" would have sounded just as good, and been just as meaningful, if Meek stuck to his own style rather than mimicking Thugger’s melodies. It still stands as one of the albums best tracks, about overcoming the tragedy of losing comrades and balling through the heartaches.
Meek Mill is definitely no longer eating ramen noodles. Despite talking about his Rolex watches on a number of tracks, fans will get a kick out of his matured references to investing in less liquid assets like on the Future-assisted “These Scars” where he says, "No more rollies I’m just buying more properties / Young n*ggas watching me give em that game properly." Gems like these can often get lost in Meek's rapid fire delivery, and braggadocio beats.
"Young Black America" stands as the most overtly "politically conscious" track on the album, but it is another example of Meek switching his flow up and losing some of his own individuality. While Meek and The-Dream discuss a number of inequalities in Black America, the record actually uses the same Al Green vocal sample as Jay-Z’s “Blueprint,” and although it seems intentioned, his slowed cadence is so close to Hov’s that despite being a good record, it feels incredibly out of place on the album.
This album seems, primarily, to be about emotional growth for Meek Mill -- even an outlet for it-- and Meek coming to an understanding that life is about both successes and failures. There are a number of points on the album where it's clear that the extensive descriptions of foreign women, expensive cars, and new properties are just a means of compensation for the legitimate losses that Meek has experienced both personally and professionally. Life is much more serious, and tragic, than internet beef or a failed relationship.
While Meek Mill's effort to deliver a different type of substance is valiant, Wins and Losses comes out a bit too long and varied-- the flip side to this is, as a listener, there will surely be certain songs to enjoy off the album, even if they won't all hit cohesively and in succession. The overall message is a positive one as well. Chase your dreams fam.