2018: How Meek Mill Became The Voice of A Generation & The People’s Champ

Rashad D. Grove examines why Meek Mill has elevated past rapper to an international symbol.

(AllHipHop Features) 2018 has turned into a banner year for Robert Rihmeek Williams, more infamously known as Meek Mill. It’s definitely been a year of more wins than losses. The native Philadelphian recently released his critically acclaimed and arguably his best work to date, Championships. Within a day of its release it became an immediate candidate for album of the year and saw an increase in sales after projections were released. It pushed over 180,000 units, a tremendous sales figure in the era of streaming. He reacquainted himself with some old friends and squashed beef with some old enemies. On top of all that, the “Dream Chasing” MC, dropped an epic freestyle on Funk Master Flex’s show. He even teased the idea of dropping another album at the end of the year. Without question, Meek Mill is making up for lost time.

The last few years have been a roller coaster ride for Meek. Form dueling with Drake, in which the court of public opinion unanimously ruled that he took an L, then, a highly publicized breakup with rap superstar Nicki Minaj, and going back to prison for probation violation, it seemed like Meek would be in jeopardy of losing everything that he worked so hard to achieve. But if you haven’t learned anything about Meek, the bull is a survivor. His ascent back to apex of the rap game is an astonishing story to say the least. Interestingly, some of the same people who thought that he was cooked just last year are probably the same ones playing Championships right now. Meek’s comeback is one for the ages.

It's amazing to remember that just a year ago, Meek was in prison and his future hung in the balance. Meek became one of the most prominent faces of a criminal justice system that disproportionately locks up women and men of color. His struggles with the system have well documented. It was on March 11, 2017, that Meek was arrested at a local airport in St. Louis, Missouri for assaulting two people. This began a spiral that left Meek entangled in the web of system.

After his case was dismissed for riding his bike in Manhattan, he dragged back in court in Philly for the same charge that previously thrown out. On November 6, 2017, he was sentenced to two to four years in state prison for violating his parole by the infamous Judge Genece Brinkley.

Reports begin to emerge about an investigation by the FBI into the conduct of Judge Brinkley. Meek's attorney, Joe Tacopina, made a number of allegations of inappropriate statements Brinkley that included that "she requested he re-record a Boyz II Men song and shout her out, and how she wanted him to leave Roc Nation to sign with a friend of hers" and that "she showed up at his community service."

In February 2018, the officer of Meek’s original 2007 case was brought under examination his apparent mishandling of his arrest. Because of this revelation and the corruption of law enforcement against Meek, an appeal to reverse Mill's conviction was submitted to the courts. On April 24, 2018, he was released from prison awaiting the outcome of the appeal to the Pennsylvania supreme court.

Amazingly, Meek has been on probation or parole for over 10 years. During this ordeal, Meek not only had the support of his rapid fan base but Jay-Z, Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, and Philadelphia Sixers co- owner Michael Rubin, who sent a private plane to pick him up from prison, all backed Meek in public. If Meek Mill, and incredibly successful artist can be subjected to the biases of the court system, how much more is it the case for the average person? Because of his ordeal, Meek has shared his story in interviews and wrote an op-ed explaining how the prison system is akin to modern day slavery. Meek in his own word says,

“Like many who are currently incarcerated, I was the victim of a miscarriage of justice — carried out by an untruthful officer, as determined by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, and an unfair judge… Even though the charge was dismissed in a New York City court, a Philadelphia-based judge still deemed my interaction with the police to be a technical violation of my probation — stemming from a 2007 arrest — and sentenced me to two to four years in prison despite the fact that I didn’t commit a crime.”

Not only has Meek been using his public platform to address the injustice he’s been experiencing, but he’s spread the message of prison industrial complex in his music. On the standout track “Trauma,” Meek spits, “Uh, my mama used to pray that she'd see me in Yale/It's f***ed up she gotta see me in jail/On the visit with Lil Papi, it hurt even though I seemed to be well/They got a smoker with a key to my cell, damn/And even worst, my judge black don't wanna see me do well/It's either that or black people for sale.

Philly is home to some of the greatest MC’s of all time and one of the greatest stories of defying the odds in cinematic history, Rocky Balboa. Although the saga of Rocky is fictitious, the reality that informs the story it full of truth. The Rocky and Creed films speak to the underdog within us all, that defies the odds to make our stamp upon the world. To become a champion.

Just like the city of his birth and the story that Sylvester Stallone introduced into the world, Meek Mill has fought poverty, the violence of the hood, and yes even” the criminal injustice system to become “The People’s Champ.” He may be reluctant to claim it, but he is a voice for voiceless who go in and out of probation hearings, parole meetings, and prison cells without proper representation and who are dehumanize by having their rights violated. Also, unlke Rocky, Meek Mill's life and plight are very, very real. In an upcoming docu-series, the story will be chronicled, which includes commentary from AllHipHop's own Chuck "Jigsaw" Creekmur.

Since Meek hopped off the private plane and went right to the Wells Fargo Center to check out the Sixers game, he’s been transforming right before our eyes. Don’t get it twisted, he’s still a street dude from the hood of North Philly. He still talks that ish like only he can. He’s still about getting his money, getting baddies and pulling up with baddest wheels. He’s still influenced by the environment that nurtured him and his music reflects that truth. But his worldview is constantly changing. He now has a vision that transcends just accumulating material possessions. He’s shedding light on a system that is designed to enslave people of color in significant numbers. For his bravery and compassion for those who are still behind the walls, Meek is “The People’s Champ.” He did not seek this, but it found him. Sometimes life has a way placing us in circumstances that forces us to become the person that we never imagined we could be. I think this is what is happening to Meek, “The People’s Champ.”