Let a real critic fawn for a hot minute. Let us toast to Meek Mill, who, as of yesterday, is the best rapper out. What a difference parole makes.
From jump, 2014 was supposed to be Meek’s year. After Philly’s District Attorney revoked Meek’s probation in July, however, Atlantic Records scrapped his album rollout; Dreams Worth More Than Money was initially due out by summer’s end, then by Halloween, then indefinitely. Meanwhile, Meek’s labelmates Rick Ross and Stalley dropped Q4 projects that were hardly worth our time. Elsewhere, Nicki Minaj dropped her Pinkprint, tying a deluxe bow to a year in which she quietly, consistently dominated top-tier, A-lister hip-hop. Both Rozay and Kanye waned after “Sanctified,” the latter having lately taken a turn toward pop and prestige; while Drake ruffled the net with a spree of three-pointer singles before ducking back to the shadows.
Given the disappointment that lingered in the wake of his uncharacteristically tepid debut album, Dreams & Nightmares, Meek’s second album is a last ditch correction of legacy that’s so far limited to (and for) the streets. His latest full-length project, Dreamchasers 3, came and went with brief, regional hip-hop buzz for Meek’s “Heaven or Hell” collaboration with Jadakiss. Dreamchasers 3 was neither a failure nor a full-spectrum test of Meek’s strengths and potential versatility as a crossover artist a la Wayne, or a richer, bolder persona a la Rozay. While singles like “Fuck You Mean,” “Off the Corner,” and “I Don’t Know” mimic and gesture at the irrepressible energy of a hit Meek Mill record, they’ve skimped on the unrefined (and so far underdeveloped) pathos of songs like “Polo & Shell Tops” or “Lil Nigga Snupe,” or the invincibility and bombast of a hit like “Burn.”
Meek’s latest release, “B-Boy,” is closer to “FYM” than it is to “Snupe,” but it’s also the funkiest we’ve heard Meek since “Amen.” Note, however, that Big Sean, who's featured on "B-Boy," is on a resurgent streak as of late. While I'm excited by Sean's newfound pettiness and darker mood in the run-up to the release of his Dark Sky Paradise next month, I hope Meek Mill murders him, too. Meek could perform "Burn" at Big Sean's funeral, for irony's sake. #doubleauntandre
While he’s occasionally buzzing via street singles and MMG collaborations, Meek is so far lacking for a solo coup. Last year, when Meek picked an internecine fight with the homie Wale, I doubted Wale’s fit for MMG and—#RossFit aside—the overall health of that operation. Whether the clique lives or disbands, Meek’s got the surest long-term prospects among that whole camp. Lately his strongest performances have come in collaboration with DJ Khaled, Boosie, and Sean. He’s all over the map yet nearly on target, so dangerously close to having a spectacular year, if only (1) he can manage to rap as enthusiastically about graver concerns as he raps about Balmain denim and (2) the city of Philadelphia minds its own crumbling infrastructure and other such goddamn business.
The first quarter of 2015 is a state of flux for pretty much everyone. I’m alternatively excited and terrified to see what new pathways of purpose, imagery, and mood Kendrick opts to travel on his third album, whenever it drops; but the shaky promotion of Kendrick’s new direction and T.D.E.’s overall shoddiness as of late leaves me cold in the meantime. I’m sure Drake will hit us with a crossover single or two before summer, though I’m less sure of his mentor and labelmate, Wayne, who’s more so a plaintiff than a rapper these days.
Big Sean is about to drop a classic Rap Game Taylor Swift breakup album, and I am totally here for that as well.
Meek Mill, however, is the here and the now, the loudmouth to beat, though he’s got much to prove himself. With a great weight of unfulfilled potential strapped to his back, Meek’s fate is a dynamic prospect, and I’m sure he’ll be flashing finger-guns and shouting the n-word as his setlist runs. I’d be shouting, too, if I hadn't blown my voice months ago, back when "FYM" dropped.