The music industry as we have known it is dead and gone forever. The culprit; illegal downloading. Gone are the days when an artist could stand on street corners, play the club circuit or battle rap with the specific intention of being noticed by a major record label, who would then pluck that artist from obscurity; furnish them with large cash advances and other amenities. Ultimately, the goal for the artist and the label was to promote the artist to the point of international success and millions of record sales. With record sales being the primary goal and source of income for record companies, artists often benefited far less from sales due to recouping advances and would the make the bulk of their income from touring and merchandising. But with the advent of mp3s, a digital or intangible form of music that is oft shared online for free, record sales have dropped by as much as % 80 by some estimates. In order to compensate, record companies have now implemented the practice of taking a cut from the artists other revenues. This new deal is known as a 360 deal. Artists are adjusting as well and in some cases flat out refusing to accept the practice and seeking success through self promotion. One artist who has had incredible independent success is Meek Mill a Philadelphia based rapper who has found international success in the digital age. Meek has experienced phenomenal success with single like “In My Bag,” “I’m So Fly,” “Hottest in the City” and his latest, “Rose Red” featuring Rick Ross.A stint in jail for shooting at an undercover cop almost derailed Meek Mill, who was forced to serve seven months in jail for the incident. Despite the setback, Meek remained popular with over 20 million YouTube views and 13 million MySpace views. AllHipHop.com spoke with Meek Mill about his formula for success. AllHipHop.com: How did you get started? It seemed like you came from out of nowhere and it was just Meek Mill all day. So how did you get your buzz up and break away from the pack like you did? Meek: I been rappin for a minute since I was about 15. I came up in the rap game in Philly. We was doing the DVD battling thing. I just decided to take it over to the next level. Started making songs with hooks. Started jumpin’ on all these instrumentals (of) everybody else’s beats and just tried to be on everything possible. AllHipHop.com: So then you put out your Flamerz series. Tell me a little bit about how that came about and what do you think about mixtapes pushing artists forward because it seems like that’s the new trend. A mixtape used to mean a bunch of hot singles on one cd that you brought to at a party. What does it mean nowadays as far as propelling an artist forward? Meek: A mixtape that was a step as far as gettin’ me poppin’ too. When I started droppin mixtapes, my Flamerz mixtapes it just started goin’ real good. You know what I’m sayin’? I was doin mixtapes tryna make them like albums. I would have like, a single on there for the chicks, I would have a club single, I would have like soulful music; try to touch em in every way. Like a album, try to cover it. Mixtapes mean a lot in my area ’cause in Philly people still heavy on the mixtapes. People still get out and go buy a mixtape. AllHipHop.com: Is that more creative control than if you were putting out an album? I see signed artist putting out mixtapes as well. What is the purpose of that? Meek: Is like just feedin’ your fans, your underground, your foundation that you came up under. On a album you gotta be more broader with it and try to touch more people at the same time. With a mixtape you can just do what ever you want the people to hear. You can give it to em on a mix tape. AllHipHop.com: O.k. So how did you hook up with T.I.? Meek: Through Charlie Mack, my manager. They’re good friends. Charlie heard a couple of my raps when I first met him and he wanted to take me out there to meet T.I. and that’s how we linked up, from that. AllHipHop.com: So is Charlie Mack still ‘the first out the limo’? (laughs) Meek: Yeah he’s still the first out the limo in my book. AllHipHop.com: I know ya’ll get that all the time. That’s gotta get old? Meek: All the time. AllHipHop.com: That’s a hip hop classic. That reminds me. What’s classic to you? What were you listening to 10 years ago or as far back as you can remember, like what’s your old school rap? Meek: My old school is Major Figgas and DMX. I’m only 23 so my old school is like Jay-Z’s first couple of albums. AllHipHop.com: So do you have a project coming out on T.I’s label? Meek: No I’m not actually signed to no label right now. I’m working on my own project. An album we’ll probably put out independent first. With me and T.I that’s like an affiliation. You know what I’m sayin’? He’s just backin’ up everything. AllHipHop.com: How far reaching is your buzz right now? Is it just a regional thing or national? Meek: I was playing a game online earlier with this boy from Cali and he said they playin’ it down in Cali a lot. He was sayin’ I got a nice fan base. I can’t really reach all my fan base ’cause I don’t know where they at, but certain times I pick up on it. But because of the internet I would say it’s worldwide. People from London, People from Cali play my music, people from New York. AllHipHop.com: I heard you got like 20-40 million hits on Youtube. Meek: (laughs) It’s a lot. It’s uncountable. I got so many videos on there it’s crazy. AllHipHop.com: What would you say about the state of the industry right now with things like 360 deals affected by the illegal downloads? Meek: Yea, It’s alright but I ain’t really wit’ it! It’s cool but at the same time it’s not cool. Somebody wanting part of everything you’re doing. We got a movie coming out right now on our own label 2-1-5 APhillyated. I got a album coming out with 2-1-5 Aphillyated. The only people that’s gonna eat off it is the people that put it together and the people that worked for it. 360 deals; you could have a million things going on that don’t have nothing to do with a label and they still want part of it. I was just watching something with Lupe Fiasco and and a couple of artists and they was complaining about 360 deals and breakin’ the whole thing down and I wasn’t really feelin’ it. I just say you have to put yourself in a position where you don’t have to take a 360 deal. AllHipHop.com: Can you tell us the title of the movie. Meek: The title of the movie is Streets. It’s all about the streets. I’m one of the main stars in the movie. My name is Meek Mill in the movie. You got Arda from State Property, Chico (Spencer) from the TV show Half and Half, Tray Chaney from The Wire, Gillie Da Kid. We got a couple of people…. AllHipHop.com: Oh Wow! That sounds good. Is that being distributed on DVD? Meek: Most likely. It might even make it to theaters. AllHipHop.com: What’s your take on beef? People try to get at you because youre in one of the hottest positions right now. Do you feed into that? Meek: When I was young I used to get into all that. Now it’s like if I ain’t makin no money, I ain’t wit it. ‘Cause 9 times out o 10 these cats don’t don’t know you. They don’t know nothin’ about you. They just talkin’. Makin money as far as the beef on tracks and goin back and forth it’s all good but if it don’t don’t make no money it don’t make sense. AllHipHop.com: What is your take on how violence and crime seems to carry over to hip hop artists even after they make it in the industry. Do you think that cycle can be broken? Meek: I don’t really know if it can be broken. People like us we rap. We gotta go out to clubs and dangerous areas. At the end of the day you gotta protect yourself. It’s a lot of hate in this game. People will try to do anything they want to you. They might try to take your jewelry. They might try to hit you with a bottle and if you react on them you’ll probably be the one to go to jail. My homey might do something but I’ll be the one to get blamed for it. They’ll say ‘Meek Mill and them’ and I’ll be the one charged at the end of the day. That’s the game we live in but you just have to roll wit’ it and try to go around it.