Meek Mill Uses His Freedom To Deliver The Year’s Most Powerful Performance (Video)
Moments ago, Meek Mill took the stage at the 2018 BET Awards. Just several weeks since being released from prison, the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania MC was introduced by Black Thought, Questlove, Kevin Hart, and Lil Uzi Vert (who calls the MC by his early hometown mixtape name “Meek Millz”), with statistics surrounding some of the troubling facts of the racial divides surrounding incarceration. At a time when he is calling for prison reform, Meek uses his freedom to show that one of the great talents of Rap music is a changed man. His first new song since becoming a free man proves it.
Meek took the stage wearing an XXXTentacion hoodie, the Florida rapper who lost his life earlier this week. On the back of the shirt is Jimmy Wapo, a Pittsburgh Rap artist who was gunned down the very same day. Meek showed that he is among the top of the class with a performance of new cut, “Stay Woke.” The stage was set to transport the Philly neighborhood experience to televisions across the world. With conviction and power in every word, the Wins & Losses MC shows that he is a champion of the people.
The song begins with a reference to Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s “The Message.” After Meek Mill nearly “went under” in a Chester, Pennsylvania cell, the MC bellowed: “We scream, ‘Black Lives Matter’ / But we still toting ladders / Watching our own brothers trying to get at us, dreams get shattered / When a scene full of crackers / And they charge you with some sh*t you ain’t do, you like what happen / We go get lawyers to say sh*t, we don’t know how to talk / They told us to hate each other before we learn how to walk / Mama taught you how to fight, fight / Before she taught you how to write, write / And daddy locked down in the cell, can’t kiss you night night / Ma, she’s under the bed every night, feel like it’s fright night.”
At a time when many wondered if Meek’s bars would match his prison reform platform, he shows that he is a changed man, committed to combating the status quo. Behind Meek is a dramatic interpretation of the life cycle of so many young Black men and women—filled with quickly lost innocence, police profiling and brutality, violence, death (covered by the American flag, no less), as well as mass incarceration. News (according to the papers) is matter of factly the deaths of young Black teenagers, showing the desensitized times we are living in. Meek raps before a series of men behind bars, who are eventually freed during the liberating performance.
The performance, featuring Miguel, includes some personal touches: “On them papers, one mistake and getting caged in / You gotta feel me, feel like the system trying to kill me / Got arrested and the charges F1 for popping wheelies / Stay woke.”
It is in the final verse of the song that Meek shows the greatness that he is capable of:
How can I pledge allegiance to the flag / When they killing all our sons all our dads? / I come from a place When you kill your own brother you can brag / Like he got bodies, but that’s a fad / No, that’s a fact I’m screaming out at your corner, ni**a, that’s a trap / Screaming out, ‘That’s your homie, ni**a,’ that’s a rack / Catch a case with him, bet he crack / Odds against you and they double stack stay woke / Bought my mama a new crib, that’s some gangster sh*t / Niece and nephews walking around wearing minks and sh*t / Keep the hood motivated, this the thanks I get / Try to Ja Rule the kid on some Wanksta sh*t / But that’s impossible ’cause I’m unstoppable / The label can’t drop me, ni**a, I’m too valuable / You thought I would lose but I won and that bothered you / Still move around in Philly just like the mobsters do / When I talked to Em’ and Hov, they said, ‘I’m proud of you / You stood tall when everyone doubted you’ My reply is, ‘I do what I gotta do And I need that verse before you retire too.’”
For an MC renowned for his powerful voice, Meek Mill deserves to be heard by all.
#BonusBeat: A TBD examination of Meek Mill’s impact: