First Impressions Of Meekz’s New Project ‘Respect The Come Up’

Having had the weekend to stew on it, some of the Complex UK team—Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson, James Keith and Claudia Valentina Cagna—sat down to share their first thoughts.

Meekz Respect The Come Up Mixtape Review
Image via Meekz
Meekz Respect The Come Up Mixtape Review

From his incendiary Hoods Hottest freestyle in 2019 to his prescient appearance on “Year Of The Real” with Pa Salieu, M1llionz and Teeway in 2020, the Can’t Stop Won’t Stop EP to last year’s “In The Fire” with Dave and co., Manchester’s Meekz has given us some absolute gold over the past few years and embedded himself in some of modern British rap’s most iconic moments. In short, the pressure was on for this debut mixtape.

You’ll have seen that much of the reporting around this release describes it as a new chapter or a new era for Meekz, and not just because he’s dropped the ‘Manny’ part of his name. Although he has dabbled in drill music, he’s never been a drill artist—despite what the bally might have you believe—but on one of the tracks, he makes his thoughts on the genre crystal clear. That plays out in a varied exploration of rap’s much wider potential; there’s squelchy G-funk, frosty road rap, and even some live instrumentation. But has this move paid off and is it a sign of what’s to come in UK rap as a whole?

Having had the weekend to stew on it, some of the Complex UK team—Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson, James Keith and Claudia Valentina Cagna—sat down to share their first thoughts.

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Best song?

JP: Despite the seriousness of the bars, the title track is a serious bop! Released in May of last year, as what most fans thought was simply a loosie, the Riddle-produced, West Coast-leaning drop has become one of Meekz’s biggest to date, and it’s not hard to see why: in just under five minutes, he shows how sharp his pen game is, how capable he is at finding new pockets, and how musical he is with regards to beat selection—which is a talent in and of itself. Most UK rappers have songs about their “come-up”, but you don’t always come away feeling the same level of joy for someone being able to leave the trenches for a better life like Meekz will have you feeling here.

James: There were a few contenders for this one. The title track nearly snatched it with its G-funk bass line, but it was the tightly-wound back-and-forth with Santan Dave on “Fresh Out The Bank” that won it for me. The pair hit a pretty good stride on Dave’s We’re All Alone In This Together posse cut, “In The Fire”, and whether or not they were in the room together for this one, it sure sounds like they were—you can almost hear them challenging each other in the studio, drawing tighter rhymes out of each other. A top-tier head-to-head.

Claudia: “Fresh Out The Bank” came close, but “Take Losses” stood out the most to me. While the crux of the project is about acknowledging the grind he put in to get to where he is today, “Take Losses” reflects the struggles he’s encountered juxtaposing the glitz and glamour that comes with success. The introspection of “Take Losses” makes it one of the more motivational additions to the project. This isn’t one you’d expect hear on the radio, but Meekz’s hard-hitting delivery paired with his intricate rhyme scheme, the soulful rap beat produced by Essay Beats and melodic hook gives this track an anthemic feel. Accompanied by a clip of Tyson Fury at the start—detailing his thought process while being floored by opponent Deontay Wilder, this perfectly sets the tone of the rest of the track and communicates the deeper message of what “Take Losses” is about.

Biggest skip?

JP: There aren’t any skips for me, and that’s me being being real. Respect The Come Up is one of those projects you can put on repeat, put on in the background, and catch yourself nodding along to randomly as you get on with your day. The replay value is high on this one, and that’s not an easy thing to achieve in today’s UK rap.

Claudia: I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s skip, but the weakest track on the project—for me—is “Don’t Like Drill”. It left me feeling underwhelmed; it felt like a filler track. Although I appreciate the stellar production from M1OnTheBeat and Chucks, it gives the impression that its inclusion was there to attract commercial audiences, given the popularity of drill and a big-name feature in Central Cee. In addition to that, this is the only track that doesn’t fit the theme of the tape—Meekz’s come-up. It might grow on me, but we shall see.

James: “Say Less”. This one was just a little too slow for my tastes. The video that dropped a few hours before the tape itself was actually a pretty cool example of a visual that improves the track, but taken without the visual, the energy just feels a bit too muted and in need of a bit more bang. And when it’s followed by such a strong three-track run, it’s quickly forgotten. In fact, if you know what’s coming, it’s difficult to resist jumping ahead.

Best thing about the project?

JP: Honestly, I’m just glad to see another rapper from outside London getting a look-in at an industry level. Meekz is signed to Neighbourhood Recordings, a label co-run by Benny Scarrs and Jack Foster—two respected A&Rs in the scene—and it’s also home to Dave, so already, he’s jumped in at the deep end. It’s about to be an interesting ride for this Manny man.

James: A lot of the UK drill scene’s main players have been wrestling with the genre’s identity, sound and integrity for some time now, but they’ve mostly been keeping it fairly oblique. Meekz, however, tackles it head-on. “I don’t like drill much” is a simple enough refrain on its own, but it’s pretty much the core of the debate. Drill has hit a rut, creatively, and a lot of its leaders have fled the coop for rap, Afroswing, even grime, or some combination of the three. But what seems to trouble him most is the ever-looming issue of lyrical content, he believes, is exacerbating street violence. Whether you agree with Meekz on that point or not, he definitely deserves points for addressing the elephant in the room.

Claudia: This projectepitomises what Meekz represents as an artist. Most tracks embody a different perspective of his journey—whether he’s depicting the struggles that he’s gone through on “Take Losses”, showcasing his ambitious nature on “Hustler’s Ambition” and “More Money”, or him boastfully describing his success on “Fresh Out The Bank”—all together offering a complete story of his journey so far.

Worst thing about the project?

JP: I think one or two tracks for the ladies would’ve taken this over the edge—Meekz has the voice and swag to carry it and make it un-corny—but there’s still time. This is just the beginning. 

James: It’s a little uneven. As I said, “Say Less” opens the tape, but then it’s blown out the water by the next three tracks. Thing is, it’s a decent enough track on its own, but it just doesn’t match up with a lot of what follows. And it’s not the only one that’s out of balance. A couple of the tracks in the second half of the set don’t feel as inspired and energetic as what came before—though there are still treats to be found in the jazzy flourishes on closer “Instagram Caption”, and there’s plenty of rewording wordplay, but “Take Losses” and “Killin’ Off” in particular fall a little flat, perhaps even more than “Say Less”.

Claudia: I don’t have any major complaints about the project and I think it did what it needed to do: introduce us to Meekz and get us intrigued for what’s to come.

Best feature?

JP: Is it me, or does Central Cee sound like he’s got something to prove on “Don’t Like Drill”? The kid sounds hungry—attacking the eerie beat like his life depends on it, with rhymes aimed at his many doubters. I don’t know where this energy came from, but he should get in this bag more often.

James: Since there are only two, it has to be Dave. Cench is great, but that chemistry between Meekz and Dave that we’ve seen on the latter’s project and on stage at the BRITs shines bright here. It’s easy to tell the difference between transactional features and those borne of a natural chemistry, and this is definitely the latter.

Claudia: After Dave called on Meekz to join him on “In The Fire”, to now Meekz calling on Dave to return the favour, “Fresh Out The Bank” represents a full circle moment for the pair. Not only that, but you can tell they have genuine chemistry. For instance, Dave starts off his verse boasting that “them man are gonna die tryin’” while he gets rich, right before Meekz comes in on the next verse to echo this sentiment with: “I’m gettin’ rich, they’ll probably die tryin.’” Both rappers hold their own, playfully going back and forth while floating on the trap production by Honeywoodsix, Clonez and Elevated.

Overall first impression?

JP: Meet Manchester’s new rap prince.

James: It’s not without its flaws, but it shows a rapper with a tonne of promise. Keeping the features to just two big A-listers was wise, giving us a really rounded view of who he is as an artist. I called it a little uneven earlier, but in fairness, that’s really what a mixtape is supposed to be. There’s certainly more good than bad and even the bad is really just fine (if a little forgettable). There was quite a bit of pressure on Meekz to get this right—especially after what his “Year Of The Real” teammates Pa Salieu and M1llionz went on to do—and he seems to have kept a cool head. He’s also done well in getting his personality in there—I’d just like to see more of that. If he can keep this up, then his debut LP could be really quite special. One thing that concerns me, though, is that he says he’s keeping the bally on in case the music doesn’t pan out. I would hope he’d have a little more faith in himself by now…

Claudia: As far as debut mixtapes go, this is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. Meekz was very intentional about only including two features—which some might say was a risky decision. But I think it actually made a lot of sense given the weight of the names he did include on there and it being our first full introduction to him as a fully rounded artist. Although there aren’t any obvious club bangers, Meekz was able to demonstrate his impressive rap abilities, earning his place in the top league of UK rap’s newcomers.

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