The story of Robert Rahmeek Williams, a.k.a. Meek Mill, on Dreams Worth More Than Money could have been the sequel to Roc-A-Fella’s 2002 crime flick, State Property. Both hood tales revolve around men from the slums of Philadelphia fighting for their lives in abject poverty. Both Beans and Meek had to deal with the unfortunate side effects and consequences of earning money, power, and respect. Only difference: Nicki Minaj doesn’t shoot him in the back of the head in court. Nah. The young hustler survives and (spoiler alert!) leaves with the bad chick, despite suffering a few gunshot wounds here and there. DWMTM is an imperfect, but compelling account of how a street survivor reflects on his journey from the bottom to the peak. The album even starts with a somber, wailing Tory Lanez, singing, “All I wanted was a new Mercedes.”
With this album, a more retrospective Meek reminisces on the past, adding his signature cocky bravado. His depth, hunger, and imagery are the crown jewels of his sophomore album as he stays the course of his usual themes like growing up poor, how money is the root of all evil, violence in the inner city, and flaunting his riches. Meek even shows specks of guilt at times for his flashy ways. On “The Trillest,” he raps, “I been losing touch with my family, it ain’t the same/I should’ve gave my sister some money, but I made it rain/I should have hit the crib with my son and play the game, but instead I ended up at the jeweler and made a chain.” The track is a prime example of how he struggles to find the balance between taking care of his family and dirt bike-riding the highs and lows of fame. Like others raised in broke environments, Mill’s goal is to inflate his bank account so he won’t return to those conditions himself, and so his loved ones won’t have to, either. However, Meek Mill reminds us how sidetracked a successful rap star can get while flourishing in the limelight.
“Ambitionz” is also flooded with the dark imagery that runs the album. Still, it’s not the same gloomy, aspirational raps as heard on his debut, Dreams and Nightmares. Here, a more mature Meek shares his recent experiences in great detail with an unapologetically grittier tone. No stranger to the prison life, he raps, “You ever wash out our drawers with the same water you sh*t?/Doin your pushups right on the floor where you piss?/Cellies with n***as that went to war with the strip/You gotta rumble from nighttime down to the morning and sh*t/I’m tryna tell ‘em.” What Meek Mill lacks in technical lyrical ability and creative wordplay on this album, he makes up for with vivid descriptions, a talent he’s flaunted since his first studio effort and even his Dreamchasers mixtapes. With perfect album sequencing, a consistent theme, and even a love story via #Omeeka thrown in, DWMTM is a full-length feature.
Meek’s signature loud and cocky delivery is also lit this go-round. Fire that could have come from a renewed drive and vigor after his unfortunate 2014 incarceration. On the dramatic intro, “Lord Knows,” Mill demonstrates such hunger in his flow with snarling lines like, “Shout out that judge that denied me my bail/It made me smarter, it made me go harder/they locked me up/it slowed my album up/but I did not give up ’cause I knew I would prevail.” Take a look at some of his contemporaries, Drake, Big Sean, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and even his MMG brethren Wale, and Meek arguably holds the title for best delivery for Sriracha hot bars. Onika’s fav rapper spits with so much conviction and ambition, it’s like he just chucked the deuces to Grand Hustle.
The collaborations on this album mesh perfectly with Meek and the album’s vibe, too. “R.I.C.O.” is a fun display of Drake and Mill’s cockiest bars since 2012’s “Amen” while the Future-assisted “Jump Out The Face” could be a potential single given Fewtch’s sticky hook and club appeal. The collabo that stands out the most is “Pulling Up” featuring The Weeknd, with the Toronto native’s haunting vocals slapped right on the Illangelo, Danny Boy Styles and Ben Billions-produced track. On “Bad for You,” he takes advantage of Nicki Minaj’s versatility as she sings like a majestic songstress, offering to be on her worst behavior. Heck, even Diddy returns to form on the album’s closer “Cold Hearted” without even rapping a verse. Meek Milly certainly brings out the best in all of his guests, pushing the LP forward than just hit-making at random.
Like the film, State Property, however, DWMTM comes with some flaws. With his bae and Chris Brown, Meek’s “All Eyes On You” sounds like a cheesy, gimmick song that could have been a DJ Khaled throwaway. Meek’s subject matter can also get very repetitive and dull at times without any “I-See-What-You-Did-There” moments. Khaled actually appears on “Stand Up,” where Meek bites a line from Jay Z, saying, “I’m on the same sh*t that Mike was on/Jordan, Jackson, Tyson, on.” The Scarface-like beat carries a ear-screeching hook that’s laced with (shutters) AutoTune.
Despite exploring topics that have been dealt with time and time again, the LP shows Mill taking everything he does best and improving on it. Dreams Worth More Than Money is his most consistent, cohesive, and focused project to date. The past 365 have seen Meek go through life-changing situations from his serious relationship with Nicki Minaj to his incarceration, proving romance and adversity make for a better story. He successfully explores his past and present while contemplating the future in a way that makes you smell the gun smoke, piss-scented prison floors, and all of the crisp 100 dollar bills in his stash. This album shows a man who turned his failures into triumphs and is proud to look into the mirror. Flipping life lessons into song: priceless.—Mark Braboy