Since the summer of 2011 Meek Mill has been on the cusp of rap super stardom. He rose from the rough streets of Philadelphia, earning his stripes in the city’s legendary battle rap scene. Make no mistake, he’s been a star in his city for the better part of the past 6 years and counting. That Buzz earned him his first shot at national exposure via TI’s Grand Hustle label. On paper it seemed like a match made in rap heaven, one of the youngest stars on the east coast joining forces with the self proclaimed, ‘King Of The South’, but during that time, (circa 09′) both were in and out of legal problems. It seemed any time Meek was a free man, TI was a caged one, and vice versa. The deal ended up being all of a video appearance here and there, and nothing more than that.
After returning home, Meek scored a regional hit with “Rose Red”, and when it came time to record a remix, his relationship with TI proved to be timely, as he lent a verse to his former protege. But it would be Meek’s relationship with the pseudo ‘King Of The South’ in the summer of 2010, Rick Ross, who was riding a career high off the popularity of his single “B.M.F.” Recording “I’m A Boss” in late 2010, the song wouldn’t take off till the next summer. Along with “Tupac Back”, Meek became a regular on radio playlists in the Spring/Summer of 2011. Appearing on XXL Freshmen 11′ cover, officially signing with Maybach Music Group, and releasing arguably the best project of the summer with ‘Dream Chasers’.
With the ever changing tide in hip-hop, Meek managed to remain a major player the following year, all without releasing a studio album. Feeding the streets with the 2nd volume of his ‘Dream Chasers’ series in the summer of 12′ as a warm up for his debut album which would finally see the light of the day. As fate would have it, Meek’s ‘Dreams & Nightmares’ would be overshadowed by another Freshman’s solo debut, Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Good Kid Maad City’ not only saleswise, but critical acclaim. The steam Meek had generated for a 18 months prior, faded with the release of his somewhat lackluster solo debut. Outside of the epic intro, the album more or less came and went. The bar he set with his Dream Chasers series seemed to be too high for even Meek himself to compete with.
Between his debut and his sophomore album Meek has battled Cassidy, taken shots at Kendrick following his verse on Big Sean’s “Control”, and had his album release date pushed back from it’s original release date of September 9th of last year, due to a probation violation. After serving a sentence of 3-6 months, he was released late last year and the internet rejoiced. Remaining relatively quiet, it was presumed he was updating his album from its original form, and connecting the dots of his personal life. He made more news for his relationship with Nicki Minaj going public, than he did for anything musically since the 3rd installment of his Dream Chasers series the previous summer.
After setting a new standard for album intros, I was eager to hear how he would begin ‘Dreams Worth More Than Money’, under those circumstances, “Lord Knows” falls relatively short of his past glory. He’s assisted by Torey Lanez (who’s uncredited) on the hook. It’s more of the same from Meek, rapping about his addiction to the finer things in life, and justifying the fact that he deserves it because of the hardships he has survived through his first 27 years of life. The song itself isn’t necessarily bad by any means. He quickly recovers with the following track, weaving in and out of a classic East Coast piano loop, with Swizz Beatz handling the hook. While the subject matters doesn’t range too far from his comfort zone, it works and makes for a quite entertaining listen.
The next 4 tracks are a microcosm of both the good and bad of the album. “Jump Out The Face” will most definitely heat up the streets this summer. Like most things Future touches, it quickly turns to gold. Meek’s flow is right at home on the Metro Boomin produced track, the only thing bad that can be said about the track is it’s about a minute too short. The ‘relationship song’ featuring go-to guy, Chris Brown and girlfriend Nicki Minaj, is more or less an US Weekly article on record. “All Eyes On You”, has hit record potential. If I had to bet, this will be on most radio playlist before this review is published. “The Trillest” captures the hunger shown on ‘Dream Chasers 1’, while the verses are exceptional the chorus is quite lazy, the beat hits extremely hard, other than that it’s nothing special production wise. The Drake assisted “R.I.C.O.” simply falls flat of its potential. A beat that resembles a certain track from ‘The Pinkprint’, and redundant subject matter from both emcees.
“I Got The Juice” is a strong track, albeit quite redundant. It plays to all of Meek’s strengths and compliments his melodic flow. “Ambitionz” barrows portions of the chorus from the 2Pac record. He revisits his time in prison, reignites some of the early fire that made him a fan favorite, but boring production holds the song back from being anything truly special. “Pullin Up” attempts to piggyback off The Weeknd’s recent stardom. It’s not a bad song, it just sounds forced for a Meek Mill album. Not the worst song in the world, it may find success on the radio, but creatively speaking it’s nothing to write home about. The albums 1st single “Check” has an awful chorus, but other than that it’s more or less the type of record that has made Meek the star he is. His collaboration with Rick Ross, “Been That” sounds like something that’s been done before by both.
The albums brightest moments appear in its final tracks. Nicki Minaj makes another appearance, this time only lending a hook where she displays her limited vocal ability. The albums 2nd relationship track “Bad For You” ends up being a pretty good listen overall. The true highlights of the album come on the final 2 tracks. The Danja produced “Stand Up” sounds like Mobb Deep circa ‘The Infamous’. Classic East Coast track, speaking on the ills of street life, and the character traits one must possess to survive the wicked streets and prison system. The album’s closing track “Cold Hearted” is vintage Meek. That hunger we fell in love with 4 summers ago seems to reappear. Taking it back to the Batcave days, he spits over another classic piano loop. Revisiting his days of struggling, envisioning himself at meetings with Jay-Z and Diddy, up until the moment he was there. Sharing tales of disloyalty amongst his own crew, and his perseverance. To add to that, Diddy is in his 90s form, as he goes on a mild mannered rant of sorts.
Overall Meek doesn’t exceed expectations, but he also doesn’t disappoint either. He gives all of his fans something to attach themselves to. For his orginal fans he has the final 2 tracks. For his fans after the Dream Chasers series he has a nice chunk of the album catering to them as well. For the fans that only know him from his radio songs, he adds another 3 or 4 records that are sure to see their way on all major hip hop stations throughout the country. I was disappointed with his debut, after a few listens to ‘Dreams Worth More Than Money’, I can whole heartedly say I’m much more satisfied, and he has delivered much better overall album. While his counterparts, Kendrick and J. Cole push the creative envelope, and elevate the level of awareness amongst the hip hop masses, Meek continues to feed the streets, and stays in the lane he has spent his career in, growth is inevitable, but this time around he doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any stretch.
Best Tracks.“Jump Out The Face”“Stand Up”“Cold Hearted”