Meek sharpened his barbs rhyming alongside his rap troupe, Bloodhoundz, but quickly realized that belittling opponents generates YouTube clicks, but not airplay. The then-cornrowed wordsmith instead focused on hooks that could capture both the party scene and the back streets. “Artists here have been groomed to be more aggressive. Nobody really has style,” says Mill’s longtime engineer Melvin “Rug” Carter, who’s worked with everyone from Eve to State Property. “As I watched him develop, I gave Meek the advice of slowing down and giving more conversation.”
Pandering to the mainstream a tad helped Meek score steady spins for his 2008 stunt-fest “In My Bag,” yet fans also gravitated toward the real life tales that bled into his songs, particularly a dramatic episode in which he was accused of aiming a gun at an officer. It was compelling punch line fodder, but also a lingering snag that cramped a record deal with T.I.’s Grand Hustle and resulted in back-and-forth skid bids for drug and gun charges.
“We all know if I pointed a gun at a cop, we wouldn’t even be talking right now—especially with cops in Philly,” says Meek, who finished an 11-month sentence for the ordeal in 2009. “I don’t think I’m Tupac, but I was in jail when I was one of the hottest niggas in the city.” Once freed, Meek was even more steadfast in his career dedication. He found another major cosigner in Ross last October, when he urged the literally huge rapper via Twitter to hop on the remix to a Flamers 3 mixtape favorite, “Rose Red.” After numerous fan retweets, Rozay obliged and later signed the constant grinder to Maybach Music. “Meek’s buzz is fueled by Meek. It spawned from him,” recalls Wale. “He got the streets behind him like no East coast artist has had in a minute—the real streets.”