On this blazing August afternoon, Meek’s driver’s seat matches his laid-back personality. He speaks concisely, eyes locked on the road, intent on answering questions while eager to restore Hov to maximum volume, and later, polish his own tracks. Yet when the dialogue turns to the mainstream drought that’s plagued Philly rap since Cassidy was two-stepping with a Patrón bottle back in 2007, the 10th grade dropout launches into a mini Kanye rant. “Dudes like me was locked up,” he rationalizes, citing Beanie Sigel’s recent guilty plea for tax evasion. “The world is crazy—you can go to jail over paper, shit they ain’t even teach you about in school. They should have a class on taxes, because they’re going to send you to jail if you mess it up.”
For Meek, prison cells live in the rear view (he’s since ﬁnished high school, too), and his peers think he can get the Liberty Bell cracking once again. “The difference between him and [other] hot artists from Philly is that he knows how to make songs,” says Freeway, who remembers a pubescent Meek Millionaire rocking local battles. “He can go all the way, because he’s just getting started and he’s always working.”
SPORTS WEREN’T A VIABLE meal ticket for Meek—the last born of two recalls once scoring on the wrong hoop in pee-wee basketball. When he moved from North to the grimier South Philly at 16, he became entangled in the same drug underworld that’d gotten his father, a career stickup kid, killed in a robbery-turned-shoot-out a decade earlier. While mom played breadwinner via hustling and dead-end hairstyling gigs, Meek connected with Jay-Z’s commercial breakthrough Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life and began emulating hometown spitters like Major Figgas. The dirt bike ﬁend quickly graduated from cassette dubs (First rhyme: “Bitches be on my dick like Chick-O-Sticks/While I’m in my whip eating Cheese Nips”) to cut-throat ciphers, where his hip-hop passion ignited. “At about 14, I battled a dude that was 16. He chewed me up,” he remembers. “I wanted to ﬁght. I was crying, people holding me back and shit. Before I left, I was like, Watch, y’all gon’ be banging my shit one day."