Meek Mill’s Journey From Nightmares To ‘Championships’
“And now we made it through all that we at the championship” — Meek Mill, Championships
It feels like we’ve all been waiting for Meek Mill to win, and his new album, Championships, is exactly what we needed to celebrate his victory. The album, that’s still number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart almost two weeks after its release, proves that fans are still standing behind his artistry.
However, if you aren’t a Meek fan or a major follower of his music, just seeing the L’s he has taken in the past few years was probably enough for you to form a soft spot for the Philly rapper.
I have a confession—I’m not a hardcore follower of Meek. I think I have heard one or two of his songs that I thought were dope, but not anything memorable (not enough to share the names right now). I was actually at the gym this weekend when I decided to use the album to motivate my leg day. As soon as the first track titled “Trauma” (I had Spotify on shuffle) came on, I was bobbing my head in 24-hour fitness like I had been listening to Mill since his first debut album, Dreams and Nightmares.
I’ve cultivated an appreciation for Meek that started back in 2015, when he was taking shots from Drake in a rap beef that pitted Philly against Toronto. That year, Drake released If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late with hit songs, like “10 Bands” and “Energy.” Later in the year, Meek hopped on Twitter to accuse Drake of ghostwriting lyrics on their song “R.I.C.O.” that was released in June. Things went left after Drake released “Charged Up,” but more so when “Back to Back” came out that everyone predicted Meek was the loser between the two.
Drake definitely didn’t hold back, with one lyric addressing his relationship with Nicki Minaj who basically had Meek opening for her Pinkprint tour at the time. Meek tried to come back…(emphasis on tried). The song, “Wanna Know,” didn’t have nearly the same heat as Drake’s track, which earned a Grammy nomination.
“You love her, then you gotta give the world to her Is that a world tour or your girl’s tour? I know that you gotta be a thug for her This ain’t what she meant when she told you to ‘open up’ more” — Drake, “Back to Back”
Life was not in a hurry to cut Meek any breaks. Breakup rumors started to surface about his relationship with Nicki Minaj for several months that following year, and his legal troubles came back to haunt him. In 2008, he was convicted of drug possession and carrying an unlicensed weapon where he served eight months in prison and earned five years of probation. He got in trouble repeatedly for probation violations after this, including one that resulted in him being sentenced to house arrest and community service in 2016. Not to mention, his cousin Angelo “Lo” Colon was shot and killed at only 21 years old that same year, and there was also a shooting at his concert—whew.
Then, things really took a turn for the worse in 2017, starting off with Nicki confirming that she was single in a Tweet. The year finished off in November, with Meek being sentenced to two to four years in state prison for violating probation, including popping a wheelie on Instagram Live without wearing a helmet, failing a drug test, as well as not complying to travel restrictions. It seemed like the universe was conspiring against him and we were all watching with a sense of pity. His sentence drew a lot of attention to the country’s failed criminal justice system, and as Jay-Z wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times that Meek had been on probation most of his adult life. He called out the system for the multiple “petty” violations that continued to keep him trapped.
“What’s happening to Meek Mill is just one example of how our criminal justice system entraps and harasses hundreds of thousands of black people every day,” JAY-Z, The New York Times.
When Meek was released from jail, I think the whole world secretly celebrated. It was in April of this year and after five months in prison, The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ordered his immediate release. From the Philadelphia Eagles at the Super Bowl to the 76ers basketball game, but the biggest celebration of them all is his latest and highly-anticipated album titled Championships released November 30th—a clash of triumph and struggle.
The intro of Championships slapped me in the face when I first heard it—not because it was some profound lyrical nuance—but because the delivery was like that of an artist who had something to prove. The Phil Collins sample of “In The Air Tonight” gave me Paid in Full vibes. The delivery of the song invokes a sense of nostalgia because it’s a sound you’d expect from a late `90s artist who just started out in the industry. You know, the ones who were discovered battle rapping on a street corner and come in the game ruthlessly spitting verses that dare anyone to challenge them.
“Bombin’ on any of them n****s that want the smoke (Woo)
N***a, this a big boy Phantom, this ain’t a Ghost (It ain’t)
Had to take the way from them n****s and now they toast (F**k ’em)
They ain’t have no sympathy for me when I was broke
Lord forgive me (Lord forgive me) for all my sins (All my sins)
Took so many riches just to get a Benz (Get a Benz)
Pray for my n****s (All my n****s), all my friends (Yeah)
In the trenches, warring with killas, we been getting it in
32 shots in my new Glock (Yeah)”
Several songs later, (i.e. “Trauma,” “What’s Free?,” and “Oodles O’Noodles Babies),” tell a story that encompasses Mill’s highs and lows that he’s experienced throughout his life. At this point in my life, I’m interested in listening to an artist who is willing to tell a story rather than sell me a dream. I want to know the struggle, and how he/she overcame their past and used that energy to drive their current music forward.
“I used to wish that my daddy was livin’
I had a dream that I seen him as ghost
I used to act up when I went to school
Thought it was cool, but I really was hurt
Wanted my family to come to my games
My mama couldn’t make it ’cause she was at work
Lived with my grandma, she took me to church
Really no I ain’t wanna go”
Yet, no matter what your current musical needs are, the album offers a little of everything: an R&B sound with “24/7” featuring Ella Mai, a turn-up vibe on “Wit the S***s (W.T.S.)” featuring Melii, along with other songs donning the same energy.
However, whether you are connecting with Championships or not, it’s fair to say that Mill deserves to be celebrated for persevering in the game of life. He has faced many hardships, but he kept strong and that resilience is clearly heard across this entire album. As far as albums go this year, Mill’s at the top of the list for poignant lyrics that tell a raw story of survival and paint a picture of celebration—a reality that he’s lived in the past two years. If his album is the last heavy hitter of the year, then it might be one to redeem 2018 from a year of mediocre rap/hip-hop music sans Daytona and Astroworld.
As we wonder what’s next for the 31-year-old former underdog, we hold up a glass and cheers to the success of Championships.
— Charmaine Griffin