Meek Mill has been through a lot in recent years. He had a longstanding beef with Drake, fueled over the likes of writing credits, a lack of support. After going on a nationwide tour with girlfriend Nicki Minaj, the couple broke up. And worst of all, he was sentenced to two to four years prison when a judge determined that he violated probation with an incident at an airport and by popping a wheelie on a motorcycle, despite both of them resulting in dropped charges. With so much going against him, Meek Mill has been steadily building his reputation back up, dedicating 2016 to the two-part 4/4 EP series and DC4 mixtape, and his last studio album Wins & Losses in 2017.
But as music critic Craig Jenkins said, ever since Meek boarded a helicopter while being released from prison on bail, he’s been making all of the right moves. He’s letting his lawyers handle the work on his own case, dedicating his own time to poignantly speaking about prison reform on podcasts, on late-night TV and with the New York Times. The MMG soldier has defiantly titled his fourth studio album Championships – he’s focused on harnessing his hardships into a record that will boost his discography and stand out in a year packed with releases. While we all get ready to settle in with the album over the weekend, here are some of our early takeaways.
1. Meek Mill Is Unafraid to Tell His Story
Meek Mill has been all over news headlines in 2018. He was sent to prison with a sentence of two to four years after his judge determined that he violated his parole, was released on bail and became the face of prison reform with support from the likes of Jay-Z to billionaire New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. On Championships, Meek eschews the media outlets and is emboldened to tell his story himself: he candidly recalls the drugs and violence he witnessed growing up, pride from making it out, anger toward a corrupt criminal system, and feels a responsibility to tell the stories of others persecuted. Songs like “Oodles and Noodles Babies,” “Trauma,” and “Cold Hearted II” are among the most vivid of his career.
2. Classic Samples Are Abound
Meek Mill seems determined to drop a classic this time around, and there are plenty of notable, nostalgic samples to put him in great company. “Intro” uses Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight,” “Trauma” brings back the vibes of Mobb Deep’s “Get Away,” the Jay-Z and Rick Ross collaboration “What’s Free” recalls The Notorious B.I.G.’s “What’s Beef,” and “Respect The Game” uses the haunting piano keys from Jay-Z’s “Dead Presidents.” But Meek doesn’t have any fear in taking on such samples head-on, pouring his all into each of those songs.
3. Jay-Z Gave Meek Mill The Best Verse of The Year
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Just in case you forgot about Jay-Z’s bars on his Everything Is Love joint album with Beyonce, Jay returns with a verse of the year candidate with his rhymes on “What’s Free,” a song with Meek and Rick Ross. Hov steals the show with a verse focused on self-ownership and black people’s commitment to excellence under the duress of racist systems. He namedrops Ye, disses Billboard and Donald Trump, and does it all with some of the wittiest rhymes he’s dropped in recent years.
4. The Reunion with Drake Is Official
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After a long-standing beef with Drake, the two publicly showed that they had resolved their differences when Meek made a surprise appearance on Drizzy’s tour stop in Philly this year. Many wondered if the two would make another song together, and they do exactly that with “Going Bad,” their first collaboration since “R.I.C.O.” on 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money. The new song sees Drake and Meek popping shit over a catchy beat by Wheezy and Weston Weiss. And this time, Drake supported the album on Twitter. Let’s hope this is the beginning of more collaborations between the two former foes.
5. Meek Mill Has Plenty of Star Power on His Side
Meek Mill tells his story on Championships, but he has a lot of star power on the album’s guest list. Meek trades bars with the likes of Cardi B, Drake, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Future, Fabolous, Anuel AA, 21 Savage, Kodak Black, and Melii. Meek may have seemed like an outsider during his feud with Drake, but now he has the whole industry behind him.
Listen to Championships below.