Meek Mill (born Robert Rihmeek Williams), is a 31-year-old South Phildelphia native and rap artist. A quiet child, Mill overcame many obstacles (such as violence, poverty and drugs) and found an outlet for his anger and grief in the lyrics he penned.
Mill began writing in high school while participating in rap battles, and in 2008 he was signed to Grand Hustle Records. A few years later, he signed with Maybach Music Group, soon releasing his debut album, Dreams and Nightmares. Shortlythereafter, Mill launched his own division within the record label, Dream Chasers Records—a name well-suited to Mill’s big dreams.
But Mill’s career has been a turbulent one. For the past decade, he’s battled with the legal system in Pennsylvannia over a series of charges that stemmed from his youth. And earlier this year, he served a five-month stint in prision for violating his probation. All of those battles and conflicts inform his sophomore effort, Championships.
This explicit, 19-track compilation is a mixed effort. Some songs focus on Mill’s time in prison and hit hard subjects such as neighborhood violence, systematic injustice and corrupt government officials. But the album plunges into some other more typical rap topics, too, including betrayal, women, lust and all the bling that riches can buy.
“Oodles o’ Noodles Babies” offers a glimpse into Mill’s difficult childhood: “I ain’t had nobody to give me no hope/I hope my momma ain’t doin’ no coke/I used to wish my daddy was livin’/ … I used to act up when I went to school/Thought it was cool, but I really was hurt.” In the same song, he raps about how family dysfunction is passed on generationally (“Lot of daddies goin’ back and forth out of jail/Lot of sons growin’ up and repeating them”). “100 Summers” covers some of the same topics and shows Mill vowing to protect and provide for his family through tough times: “I told my momma I won’t leave her lonely.”
Mill tells a story of all he’s been through in “Championships” and seeks to deliver a redemptive message for a younger generation: “You gotta tell ’em put them guns and Percs down/ … I just had to say somethin’ ‘cause I’m the one with the reach.” And on “What’s Free,” Mill talks about some of the other positive ways he’s trying to influence the culture: “When you bring my name up to the judge just tell em’ facts/Tell em’ how we fundin’ all these kids to go to college/Tell em’ how we ceasin’ all these wars, stoppin’ violence.”
In songs such as “Respect the Game” and “Intro,” Mill says that he stays close to his family and friends and fights through difficult times. On “Cold Hearted II,” he opens up about the struggles associated with fame (“A green piece of paper can turn you into a hater”) as well as the rejection and loneliness he experienced in prison (“See, it hurt my heart to see some of my closest friends/Turn their back on me”). That song also delivers a somber warning about urban violence: “Bodies droppin’ in my city all summer long.” Similar sentiments are heard on “100 Summers.”
“Trauma” is one of the most difficult and honest tracks here, as Mill gets real about all he’s seen in his life, including police brutality, what he considers an unfair prison sentence and government corruption: “Man, they got us warrin’ for our freedom/ … If you don’t stand for nothin’, you gon’ fall for something.”
All 19 tracks on Mill’s album are explicit. And their problems can be grouped into several content-problem categories.
The first category is sexual content. Songs such as “Almost Slipped,” 24/7,” “Wit The S—s (W.T.S),” “Dangerous,” “Uptown Vibes” and “On Me” all include graphic references to sexual encounters. The first song crudely chronicles Mill’s relief at having escaped from a woman that he deems untrustworthy, but someone he still wants to have sex with. The latter, featuring Cardi B, explicitly brags about having a threesome at the “top floor at my penthouse, yeah.”
The second category fuses drug use and bravado. Mill mentions everything from marijuana to Molly on songs such as “Splash Warning” (“I be cookin’ coco out the pot”), “Going Bad” (“Back home, smokin’ legal”) and “Championships” (“All the young ‘uns in my hood popping Percs now”). In “Stuck in My Ways,” and plenty of other songs, Mill majors on materialism and references past drug use (“I jumped out the Porsche, and got me some grams/Ran up a check, stop poppin’ on bands”).
The third category here is violence. Violence takes several forms on his tracks, such as murder, police brutality, gang violence and death threats that even Mill himself doesn’t shy away from. In “Pay You Back,” he warns those who’ve come against him, “I come from the six, where they kill killers (straight up)/This AK got so many bodies I call it Charles Manson.”
Finally, there’s the constant profanity. Every song on this album includes harsh vulgarities. Not to mention that women are often verbally degraded and treated like objects, rather than human beings.
Meek Mill has earned praise for his insights into inner-city violence and the way he’s described the hard world he’s sought to escape. Many of his songs contain graphic references to his difficult experiences growing up in poverty. In an interview with Beats 1, Mill said that his desire now is to “take action … do some real things that make change,” such as talking about “trauma … PTSD … the system … racism, [and] living in violent neighborhoods, growing up in anger.”
It’s easy to applaud Meek Mill’s desire to be a catalyst for change on the means streets where he grew up. That said, it’s much harder to applaud Championships as a whole. Though quite a few lyrics encourage listeners to make positive changes, too many others still indulge mature content. We hear explicit sexual references, allusions to drugs, depictions of vengeful violence and nearly constant profanity.
For all that Meek Mill gets right, his latest explicit effort still very much warrants the Parental Advisory sticker on its cover.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).