Time gon’ tell who built to last…
I can never fold…
Ain’t nobody stopping me from what I’m destined…
– Meek Mill
DOB: May 6th 1987 >Taurus (April 20th – May 20th): There is no room for doubt, no reason to change things up, no need to quickly come up with something new. Hold your head up high, and deliver.
If you’re even just marginally a fan of Hip Hop and music culture, then you know by now that during July of last year, the rapper formally known as Meek Mill took a sharp blow to his brand following a virtual beef between he and the Hip Hop/Pop sensation Aubrey “Drake” Graham. This dispute left the social media world in an uproar, pulling everyone from the average listener to the largest companies into the mix. Fast-food chains like Whataburger, Hamburger Helper and White Castle, and language company Rosetta Stone joined the twitter storm, attaching themselves to the pop cultural phenomenon.
The beef occurred right after Meek for the first time experienced an unprecedented level of mainstream success, for someone considered to be a ‘street rapper.’ His sophomore album ‘Dreams Worth More Than Money (DWMTM)’ landed the #1 spot on the billboard 200 charts, remaining there for two weeks, and it would go on to win the top rap album at the Billboard Music Awards in 2016. The major single on the album, ‘All Eyes On You,’ featuring his superstar girlfriend Nicki Minaj would go on to receive platinum status. Both ‘DWMTM’ and his debut album, ‘Dreams & Nightmares,’ as of this date have gone Gold. Meek has found a way to navigate around his nagging case that has followed him for the last eight years when he was convicted of drug dealing and gun possession, and was afterwards sentenced to a year in jail.
To many, the Drake vs. Meek Mill beef marked the end of the North Philly native’s storied career, and the last time we’d hear of him in contexts that include more than just his “Trigger Fingers” turning into “Twitter Fingers.” I’m not gonna lie, when I began hearing Drake’s ‘Back to Back’ begin getting played even in Philly clubs and venues, I knew things were looking meek for Meek. Fast forward 10 months and Mill is coming off a 90-day house arrest for allegations again tied to his case. But what many are not fully aware of, however, is that throughout this 10-month period, the award-winning artist, known for the immortalized ‘Intro,’ and the club banging ‘House Party,’ has been steadily priming for a comeback.
Beginning with his 4 before the 4 EP (pointing reference to his Dreamchasers 4 mixtape that has been anticipated to drop) released on January 16th 2016, Mill has been appetizing his core fan base and preparing the world for the release of the next iteration of his popular Dreamchasers mixtape series.
The beginning commentary in ‘Gave Em Hope’ — before Meek goes in rapping — does the service of explaining the mission that Meek is on, what it is exactly that distinguishes him from Drake, and why his career is far from over. Meek for a while now has been trying to fill a space in Hip-Hop that has remained vacant. It’s the lane filled by artists who have stayed close to the ground and touched the people with emotion, like a DMX or a Tupac, or has been occupied by the big street artists, like Jay-Z and Nas. There’s a missing space that Meek believes he can fill. There’s a reason why it sounds almost insulting to hear an artist like Drake call himself the new Jay-Z – like on ‘Summer Sixteen’ when he goes, “’Oh it’s your time now’ yeah, that’s what everybody say/ I used to wanna be on Roc-A-Fella then I turned into Jay.” No matter how big of an artist Drake becomes (and it’s difficult to imagine him becoming any bigger, music-wise), he can never be compared to Jay-Z, in the way that Kobe and Lebron – for example — have been compared to Jordan. No matter how many billions of times ‘Views’ is streamed on Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, or Vizzi Music (http://vizzimusic.com/), or hits ‘One Dance’ gets on the radio, few people would agree that Drake embodies for this generation what Jay-Z did for the last, despite Drake being the biggest artist in Hip-Hop right now. And of course there are artists like J. Cole, or Kendrick, who have been tremendous influencers in their own right, but there is an emotional aspect and relatability that Meek has to particular demographics, which those artists lack.
In the 4 by 4 EP, whether it’s on ‘Pray for em,’ or the ‘I’m da Plug remix,’ embedded is a residue of vengeance that the Philly rapper seeks. Overall, one see’s him going back to his M.O., abandoning the mainstream production found throughout DWMTM and focusing on the trap beats and street anthems that he knows best.
On January 30th 2016, 4 before the 4 was followed up by a part 2, which included a direct diss track to Drake and OVO in the record ‘War Pain.’ In the song, Meek exposes the fact that Drake heavily uses ghostwriters for his music. Meek released the record 15 minutes after Drake released his Summer Sixteen, and addressed points that Drake made within Summer Sixteen, such as Drake comparing himself to Jay-Z. Included in the references was Drake’s rumored criticism of Tory Lanez, and Meek referring to Drake as a culture vulture.
Many would argue that ‘War Pain’ should have been the record that Meek released in place of ‘Wanna Know,’ which most believed was a lukewarm response within the beef that led to Meek’s downfall in July of 2015. In ‘Ricky,’ Meek belches out ‘Lord please forgive them they not know,’ acknowledging his crucifixion for a situation that he believes himself to be in the right in. Despite being a big Meek Mill fan myself, I for one see no reason why he felt the need to tweet out the fact that Drake doesn’t write all his raps, mostly because it’s common knowledge that ghost-writing is prevalent in Hip Hop, and especially because Drake has reached a point in his career that in order to continue ascending (it’s obvious that Drake has aspirations for more than just music), it helps to have artists help you in the studio. Moreover, Drake has been commended for being a songwriter for artists like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Alicia Keys and Dr. Dre, so there is no question as to whether he has the ability to write. But the level of criticism and negative public display that Meek received following the beef was undeniably disrespectful and uncalled for.
And unfortunately, his being sentenced to 90 days of house arrest shortly after he would begin dropping music again in the New Year did not help his situation. Meek’s case continued to follow him like a ghost, forcing him back into court in what would eventually amount to a 90-day house arrest period (this was light considering that the judge originally sentenced him to another year in jail). During these past 3 months from March to June, Meek has had detailed restrictions on what he has and has been unable to do. Part of his freedom has been in releasing music as long as it’s at no cost, and this is exactly what he’s done with the two singles he’s dropped in the last month and a half. He has begun to again prove his lyrical prowess, mainstay in the game, and promise for a narrative that will play out a lot differently than many might expect.
Released on April 5th, Meek’s ‘Trap Vibes’ record — which is a freestyle over Drake’s ‘Summer Sixteen’ and Desiigner’s ‘Panda’ — shows off an optimism and clear intention to make this summer a real memorable and Dreamchasing one:
This summer right here, —/
We goin’ up/
Litted, its litted/
Throughout the record Meek is back to talking about the finer things in life, with a level of confidence that suggests he’s ready to continue elevating.
In his ‘All The Way Up Remix’ that features Fabolous and Jadakiss, he continues on this same tip, spewing phrases like, ‘I came back like I’m Mike wearing 45.’ Meek is looking to convince listeners that not only is he here to stay, but he’s also ready to rise to another level.
Meek Mill will soon be releasing his Dreamchasers 4 mixtape, and there’s no question that it’s something that will resonate with his core fan base. Perhaps it will also reinstate him as someone who is acknowledged as a fixture in Hip Hop. But will it captivate the mainstream? And does this even matter, being that his mission is one that seeks no approval from the general public? Nonetheless, it’ll be intriguing to see how Meek’s public perception shifts, as he yet again continues to progress in his career.
© Akinyemi Bajulaiye