I like Meek Mill the person. He’s a survivor, a dream chaser, an inspiration for the underdogs defying the odds. I don’t like Meek Mill the rapper. It’s a statement that tends to leave others dumbfounded, confused that somehow I could find the Philly native’s rambunctious style and celebratory anthems anything less than sonic fuel. My friends are fans of Meek, my brothers are his ardent supporters, I’m always surrounded by people that will preach his gospel and attest to his acclaim. I will admit, "Levels" is modern day philosophy and the Dreams and Nightmares intro is special, one of the most explosive demonstrations of his capabilities as a rapper. Just Blaze recently proclaimed the song will be here forever, the "PSA" of my generation. But aside from select tracks, on the whole his music has failed to leave much of an impression on me.
He just doesn’t excite me as a lyricist. People tell me about the bars he spits, the stories he tells, that he should be in conversations with J. Cole and Kendrick as one of the best of the new generation, a statement that tends to leave me dumbfounded, confused, pondering if my ears are missing something. I enjoy Meek in loud crowds where intoxication is encouraged and the reaction he invokes from strippers, but I still feel like he doesn’t have the prowess of the contemporaries they want him aligned with. If it wasn’t for the job, I wouldn't be rushing to listen to his new album, Dreams Worth More Than Money. But since this is my job, I'm going to use it as an opportunity. I’m going into this searching for understanding. I want to hear what people have been applauding since Dream Chasers 2, and per "1 Listen Review" rules, I'll be listening and writing in the moment with no pausing or rewinding, just my gut reaction thoughts as I listen to the album for the first time. [Read this if you want the full 1 Listen concept explained.] Let's do this.
“Lord Knows” (ft. Tory Lanez)
Meek knows this is the most important moment of his album, his intros have become his calling card. Ominous violins into a booming drop. Production is big, this is going to be another moment. This is like A$AP’s "Holy Ghost" elevated. Meek has a way of flowing and adding that Pac-esque inflection on his voice that’s emotional and powerful. Waiting for the beat switch, the buildup is insane, where is it, where is it...damn it Meek with the pump fake. Verse two, this is going to sound insane in a vehicle with suitable speakers. This a definitely an adequate sequel to the Dreams and Nightmares' intro but it doesn’t give me that feel, he didn’t command the energy like before. Still a solid song. It’s still going, five minutes and I'm not hitting the snooze button. A holy choir ending, church going up on a Monday.
“Classic” (ft. Swizz Beatz & Jeremih)
Not a fan of the title, not a fan of Swizz Beatz post Ruff Ryders prime, but JESUS THE BEAT JUST DROPPED AND I’M LOSING IT. Meek said he’s feeling like the old Jigga. Ha. Meek’s flow plus the production is strong enough to make up for Swizz' ad-libs annoyance. Bangladesh killed this. I really can’t stand the level of corny Mr. Keys brings to the world. He’s like Nick Cannon without the movies, television shows and divorce. Otherwise, I'm with it.
“Jump Out the Face” (ft. Future)
FUUUUUUTURE, the lean dripping Pikachu does it again. I’m loving the energy, this album has been three tower spinning anthems so far. Meek wants the summer with this one. This is his lane and Future is completely stealing the show. Their chemistry is incredible, yes, this is a winner. Future is lowkey having an incredible year.
“All Eyes On You” (ft. Nicki Minaj and Chris Brown)
Meek's slowing things down now and I'm trying to separate my personal feelings toward Chris Brown the man and Chris Brown the artist, not a fan of either to be completely honest. This is cool, sounds like the kind of song DJ Khaled would curate for his album. Meek with the Biggie homage, always nice to hear a recycled/homaged flow, a bit a familiarity. Nicki has mastered sounding gutta and gorgeous, she’s brolic enough to beat you up but still worth buying a drink. The back and forth with Meek is a cool touch. This is definitely a single, radio could fall in love with it.
First song with just Meek, another title that I’m not fond of. Meek is a very honest artist, when he taps into an introspective state of rhyme it reminds me he’s more than an anthem maker. Meek can rap, he has substance, with a story like his there has to be some kind of depth. Very smooth production, will have to look into the sample. Ha, the last line in the second verse. Like the beat switch at the end, strip the beat down allowing his voice to takeover. The chopper is singing, Meek is going off. Other than the meh hook, this is a keeper. I'll admit, I'm impressed.
“R.I.C.O.” (ft. Drake)
The song that the blogs have all posted. Drake and Meek reunited. Drake needs a new flow, it’s something so banal about when he does the effortless, talking raps. It worked on the album but now I’m annoyed. Meek just stunted on all teachers’ salaries. Cold world. Yep, this is feeling a bit underwhelming. Production is hard, extremely, but the two stars didn’t deliver a worthy performance. Could have been so much better.
"I Got The Juice"
Cardo and Meek reunited, songs like this remind me why I often can't connect with Meek. He tends to fall into an established format, same style, the subject matter starts to feel overdone. How many times can he talk about the cars and the women before we become a bit bored? I'm a bit bored right now.
We need better song titles, Meek. Moving on, Pac homage, powerful production, dark, matching Meek’s gritty cadence. He sounds hungry, empty pockets, growling stomach, vicious. Unlike the previous song, this is the Meek that I want more of. It really is Pac-esque, the way he uses his voice, it’s his best instrument. The passion, the angst, the pain, he can summon all these feelings and unleash them. Give him cool points for the Hey Arnold reference
“Pullin’ Up” (ft. The Weeknd)
The Weeknd, an unexpected feature, to be honest this should be The Weeknd featuring Meek Mill, this is the kind of song he dominates. Weeknd steals a lot fo songs like this. Druggy and slow. Yeah, Meek is rapping but I want more Abel. It’s not a strong enough record to be considered a keeper, but another possible radio record. Very odd breakdown at the end, like he’s crooning to the moon, Weeknd the werewolf. Feels more like a song Meek felt like he should have on his album than he really wanted to have.
Currently, Young Thug’s "Check" is my Paypal direct deposit text tone and current guilty pleasure. Meek is heating back up. Another possible summer smash, Metro Boomin is bringing the bounce, this knocks, and Meek is having entirely too much fun. This is the song that every DJ will have in steady rotation by the end of this week. Put it on repeat, and repeat, and repeat....
“Been That” (ft. Rick Ross)
WOO, this build up is thrilling, production has been strong throughout. Hard-hitting drums and sinful basslines, this is the kind of song that will lead to Chief Keef-esque videos. A room full of dreads swinging and not a single woman in sight. Rick Ross with the boss flow, this is definitely their sequel to "Tupac Back." Bangers on bangers here.
“Bad For You” (ft. Nicki Minaj)
Nicki Baenaj is back with the sensational hook, but Meek never turns down his gangster even for the sentimental records. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. This song feels unnecessary. A couple records a song for the sake of being a couple, the kind of couple that spend too much time on Instagram. I just don’t hear the chemistry. It also throws off the energy that "Check" and "Been That" built up. Skip.
Khaled appears. I like this beat, it’s unlike anything else on the album. Is that a guitar pluck in the background? Crap, I can’t think of the song this reminds me of. Very airy, minimal. Whoever allowed him to Auto-Tune the hook should be sleeping with the fishes. This is a pretty solid record. Shows a bit of range. He has some hooks that I just can’t get behind on this album. Honestly something I thought he was beginning to master. Example: Levels.
"Cold Hearted" (ft. Diddy)
Smooth piano keys and an honest Meek is instantly a win. Subtle drums in the background, Auto-Tune hooks is Meek’s Achlle's heel. Someone keep him away for the rest of forever. He’s really spilling out his soul, you can feel the sincerity. The greatest shit talker in hip-hop history, Sean Puffy Swag Combs. Reverend Combs with the gospel about fame, family and loyalty. Paid In Full reference? Keeper. Another Meek verse? Closing out strong.
The end of these reviews still feels like conquering a marathon run, I'm literally sweating. On first listen, I saw a glimpse of the clarity I was searching for. Meek understands his audience, they expect a monumental introduction, summer ready hits, sincerity and more hits. He does this all, with a bit of style and an abundance of swagger. I’m impressed by his ear for production and ability to make records that will appeal to the radio without refining himself. He is good, getting better, and has my attention. This album could prove to be the gospel that converted me into a Meek believer, or just another Meek Mill album I play mostly for the intro. Time will tell.
[By Yoh, aka Ambitionz as a Writer, aka @Yoh31]