There aren’t many rappers alive that mean more to the city of Philadelphia than Meek Mill.
Meek has been tied to the city, since the early 2000s when he shined as a battle rapper in the streets of North Philly. With his latest album, he cements himself in the pantheon of the all-time greatest rappers hailing from the City of Brotherly Love.
After a stellar start to his rap career with his “Dreamchasers” mixtape series, Meek dropped his first two albums “Dreams and Nightmares” and “Dreams Worth More Than Money,” in 2012 and 2015 respectively, selling hundreds of thousands of copies of each. Hits like “Dreams and Nightmares” and “R.I.C.O.” propelled Mill to the top of the rap landscape, and his high-visibility relationship with fellow rap-titan Nicki Minaj made him seem infallible.
Then, for whatever reason, he decided to beef with Drake—the most popular rapper in the world, both then and now. After getting dismantled, the momentum he built with years of consistent material was tarnished. Mill bounced back with “Wins & Losses” in 2017, but his luck quickly ran short as his criminal history caught up with him. In November 2017, Mill was sentenced to two to four years in state prison for violating his parole—a harsh blow in the rapid-fire rap world of the present. After a turbulent yet brief sentence, Mill was released from a suburban Philadelphia prison this past April, pending the outcome of his appeal to The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Just hours after his release, Mill rang a ceremonial bell at a 76ers game. Meek was back, and the city knew it.
Without pressing play, “Championships” exudes success. The title and cover reflect the recent Super Bowl victory of Mill’s hometown team, the Philadelphia Eagles: Meek looks forward, green and white confetti decorating the image.
From the first bar of his new album, Mill spits verses with a reignited passion and a sense of triumph behind his words, making his latest release his best project since his 2012 mixtape “Dreamchasers 2.”
This album proves Mill’s talent goes beyond just storytelling and lyricism: He’s also a superb curator of features. Features can make or break an album, and with subject matter as intricate as this project has, I was nervous with the number of high-profile names attached to many of the songs. Thankfully, the features range from alright to great, which is more than I can ask from a modern rap project. Standout verses come from Jay-Z, who returns to form with woke, consistent bars reminiscent of his 2017 project “4:44” and his former foe, Drake, reuniting with Mill on the surefire hit “Going Bad.” If you didn’t know their history, you would have no idea the two were enemies three years ago, as the Philly and Toronto MCs bridge borders effortlessly. You should expect to hear this one at Huskies soon.
On this album, Mill spills his trials and tribulations on pen and paper like never before. The second track of the album, “Trauma,” explains Mill’s struggle to regain freedom through emotional retelling.
“My mama used to pray that she’d see me in Yale / It’s f***ed up she gotta see me in jail,” Mill raps. Later in the track, Mill recounts his personal musings from his jailtime, spitting, “Watching a black woman take my freedom / Almost made me hate my people / When they label you felon, it’s like they telling you they not equal.”
“Championships” isn’t just a great album. It’s a statement. It’s proof that nothing will stop someone from reaching the top, if they are motivated to see through the shortcomings. “See comin’ from where I come from / We had to beat the streets / Beat the system, beat racism, beat poverty / And now we made it through all that we at the championship,” Mill reminds us on the album’s title track.
The chosen son of my city has returned. Philadelphia, once again, belongs to Meek Mill.
Daniel Cohn is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.