Can Meek Mill use the spotlight to ignite a music comeback?
This 30-year-old Philadelphian rapper, however, isn't new to controversies. From the time his career took off, he's had a tiff with most of the big names in the rap game.
In a happy news for hip-hop fans, Meek Mill was released from prison on Tuesday after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court let him go on the basis of "unsecured bail".
After a turbulent legal battle, that went on for months, the rapper finally took a breath of freedom after the highest court in the state ordered his immediate release.
Last November, Mill was sentenced up to four years of prison time for violating probation. He was under the watch of the justice system regarding an almost 10-year-old drug and gun case. He was found guilty of dealing drugs and possessing an illegal firearm in 2008.
Judge Genece Brinkley, who passed the judgment, felt that he had exhausted his chances of cleaning up. His prosecutor begged to differ but was shut down by the judge saying, Mill "does what he wants".
Meek was arrested two times last year. The first time for allegedly starting a public argument at an airport and the second time for seemingly rash driving in NYC on a dirt bike.
However, support never seemed to fall short for the rapper through it all - apart from fans who held protests during his prison sentence, support poured in from rapper Jay-Z, actor and comedian Kevin Hart, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Philadelphia 76ers as well as Earl Sweatshirt, Rick Ross and T.I.
Meek, whose real name is Robert Williams, also thanked his well-wishers after the release as he headed to celebrate at a 76ers game, saying he's really looking forward to being back in the music biz.
The 30-year-old Philadelphia rapper, however, isn't new to controversies. From the time his career took off, he's had a tiff with most of the big names in the rap game as well as faced flak from religious groups.
Meek started his career in his hometown as a battle rapper and dabbled at making it big with a group called The Bloodhoundz. The group was short-lived with no success.
It was only in 2008, that T.I recognized his talent signed him onboard for his first record deal. Sadly, this didn't work out for him either and Meek found himself out of Grand Hustle Records, T.I's Atlanta based label in 2011.
This didn't have much to do with Meek and more to do with his mentor's run-ins with the law. After the deal fell through, T.I revealed in an interview with Billboard, "After my two hiatuses I was put in a position where I couldn't really make moves on Meek as quick as he may have wanted to. I have never been one want to hold anyone back or to slow down the success of anybody. I'm the first to try to enhance what you have and if I can't make it better than I shouldn't be a part of it."
Right from the beginning, his talent shined through to all and he quickly landed another deal - this time with Rick Ross's Maybach Music Group (MMG) based out of Miami. This is when his first album released. In 2012, 'Dreams and Nightmares,' hit the music scene. His debut wasn't a blockbuster but it did cause a stir among fans.
He released another single called 'Young & Gettin' It' soon after the album and it debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200. It was also the year of collaborations for him. He was seen rapping with the big names of the industry like Rick Ross (for 'Tupac Black' and 'Imma Boss').
The track took off and was remixed featuring T.I., Birdman, Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled, Swizz Beatz and Rick Ross himself. The remix charted on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at #51, becoming Mill's most successful single at that time.
The same year, 2011, he released 'Dreamchasers'.
A mixtape of sorts, the track 'House Party' tasted success from the bunch. It featured Rick Ross, Yo Gotti and Beanie Segal. It is interesting to see the support he's always received from the bigger names of the industry - it was like they took him under their wings and really pushed him to succeed recognizing the talent he himself was probably not aware of.
Even when he went to prison, his fellow rappers flocked to show their support. Before his release, Kevin Hart visited him in prison and in an interview with CBS, he was convinced that Meek was innocent. He said, "The frustration for me is, why is he still there? I still don't understand why he's still in jail after so much has been pointed out.
"I think the good with the situation is that he now has a platform. And I think coming out, he will be able to use that platform to really shine a light on how corrupt this system is and hopefully also keep this younger generation from going through this. And also, a lot of people that are incarcerated now that are doing the unnecessary time."
Jay Z, who is considered the king of the rap world, also did not mince his words when it came to backing Meek. Writing an op-ed for The New York Times, he said, "Just one example of how our criminal justice system entraps and harasses hundreds of thousands of black people every day." He went on to call probation a "landmine" and he commented that Meek had been "stalked by a system that considers the slightest infraction a justification for locking him back inside."
The piece also pointed out that "As of 2015, one-third of the 4.65 million Americans who were on some form of parole or probation were black. Black people are sent to prison for probation and parole violations at much higher rates than white people."
Their support, both in his personal life and career paid off.
Meek's big break came after he was listed on MTV's Hottest MCs in the Game list, where he landed on number 7. Wasting no time, Meek made the timely decision to launch the second part to 'Dreamchasers'. Just six hours after being put out, it ended up getting 1.5 million downloads.
He appeared alongside Mariah Carey and rapper Nas in 'Triumphant (Get Ém)'. The album did really well, landing second on the US Billboard 200 chart. The album sales were on par as well, flying off the shelves. It sold 165,000 copies in the first week itself. This could have a lot to do with Meek's minor tiff with the law after a car he was driving was pulled up by the police. He wasn't detained and no charges were filed against him.
But he was far from done with controversies. In 2012, he released 'Dreams & Nightmares,' which had a track called 'Amen', that angered Philadelphia area pastor Rev. Jomo K. Johnson. 'Amen' was the leading track for the entire album, which was his biggest one so far.
The pastor called for the rapper to be shunned because of his seemingly distasteful lyrics, asking him to make things right.
Meek's response was far from agreeable. He said later in a BET interview, "I don't think no preacher or no church approve of any type of rap music—because rap music, period, is a lot of bad stuff said. But at the end of the day, it's real life. And me, I wasn't trying to disrespect no religion or anything like that."
Meek, always ambitious to climb up the ladder, decided to start his own label called Dream Chasers Records, perhaps in the hope of spinning a similar success story as the album, it was named after. He then went on to the release of 'Dreamchasers' third installment in 2015 and then two more, called 'DC4' in 2016 and 'Wins & Losses' in 2017, none of which brought blockbuster success. Soon after, his mess with the court and violation of probation started putting his career on a hiatus.
It appears as though Meek, who grew up poor, only had music to turn to. From his three bedroom apartment on Berks Street where he lived with his parents, he filled pages of notebooks with verses. It was his only solace from a life that he had.
His criminal tendencies started at this point itself, he was shoplifting to help out at home. Shy as a kid and teen, Meek definitely took things to another level as he grew up and tasted the rich life. He's perhaps the only rapper with this many feuds as well as friends - he's had an issue with Cassidy, The Game, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Beanie Segal among others.
It's almost as though he goes looking for trouble and instigating a fight - for the sake of his fans and his music career, we hope he's done. As of last year, Meek is worth $3 million - with such a huge spotlight on him, here's hoping he makes the greatest comeback hip hop has ever seen!