“Championships” Review: Gangsta rap and storytelling fill this hip-hop album

Editor’s Note: This article features an artist who uses obscenities and references violent themes in his music. Reader discretion is advised.

Meek Mill has had an interesting life these last few years. His sophomore album “Dreams Worth More Than Money” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and was also named “Top Rap Album” at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards. The North Philadelphia rapper was then sentenced to two to four years in prison in November 2017 for violation of his probation related to drug and weapons possession charges, but after a convoluted legal process that gained national attention and sympathy on his behalf, he is now a free man. The title of his newly released album “Championships” marks his return and triumph over prison.

“Championships” is very different from many of Meek’s previous albums, appealing to many different kinds of hip-hop fans. It contains “gangsta rap,” lyrics that focus on social issues, materialism, sneak disses and a mark of reconciliation for Meek as he once again collaborates with former rival Drake.

GANGSTA RAP

Meek’s music is known for containing lyrics that hint at gang activity, and that remains unchanged here. “Championships” contains a long list of features, including some rappers with a self-proclaimed criminal past, such as Atlanta-based rapper 21 Savage and New York rap legend Jay Z.

In the track “Pay you Back,” 21 Savage raps, “I come from the Six where they kill killers. This AK got so many bodies I call it Charles Manson… All the guns I own got hollow tips in them.”

21 Savage’s roots run deep in Atlanta’s notoriously gang-riddled Zone Six area and by comparing himself to Charles Manson, he simply sends the message he is not to be trifled with.

In the track “What’s Free,” Jay Z raps around his own criminal past and his journey to today. He raps, “I survived the hood, can’t no Shaytan rob me. My accountant is so good I’m practically living tax free. Factory, that is me. I sold drugs, got away scot-free.”

Jay Z has claimed many times that he was a drug dealer and hustler during his early days. As it is universally known now, he has definitely survived the hood.

STORYTELLING WITH MEEK

In a surprising turn of lyrical ingenuity, Meek adds levels of storytelling to “Championships.” Meek has never been known as a storyteller, but he shows his listeners that he has the ability to do that on this album.

In “Trauma,” Meek raps, “Gave me two to four years like f— your life, meet me in hell. And let it burn like Lucifer, you look even stupider. Tryna impress them people in power when power abusing us. For 44 dollars an hour, you coward they using you. Is it self hate that made you send me upstate?”

Meek takes aim at the justice system in this song. With this verse, it is more than evident that he feels both angry and sad about facing a two-to-four-year sentence after violating his parole. He has also shown his immense support for justice reform since his release. He has met with several lawmakers such as Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf. Meek has stated that his determination is to give those without a voice the resources to be heard.

In the track “Championships,” he excellently paints a picture of his life as a child.

“We was kids playing on the step,” he raps, “A couple years later we flirting with the angel of death. I was eleven years old, I got my hands on the TEC. When I first touched it it gave me a rush. My homies dying I’m like ‘Maybe we next.’”

Meek raps about his past life in Northern Philadelphia, which he says is a place filled with crime. He raps about when he first got his hands on a nine millimeter handgun and the adrenaline rush that that gave him, but despite this rush, he also acknowledges how his gangster lifestyle negatively affected himself and those around him.

RECONCILIATION

Back in 2015, Meek feuded with Drake after he accused the Toronto-based rapper of using a ghostwriter when Drake was featured on “Dreams Worth More Than Money.” This started a giant battle between the two rappers, involving disses towards each other in many different songs, most notably Drake’s hit single “Back To Back.” They were once friendly as Drake was featured on a Meek Mill album and it appears their feud has been squashed as Drake was featured on “Going Bad.” Meek also performed at Drake’s concert at Boston’s TD Garden back in September.

Meek Mill stated in an interview that the two had been in contact the previous year, and that he would send the message that bridges could be rebuilt and that these issues had made them stronger.

FINAL THOUGHTS

“Championships” could potentially reach the same status as “Dreams Worth More Than Money” because of its versatility. It appeals to a much broader audience with the variety of content that is offered within the album. There is something for everyone in this album, so it would be incorrect to label it as generic or bland. It serves as a mark of victory for Meek Mill.

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