Don’t call it a comeback. Following a forced hiatus, Meek Mill has returned. Championships marks his first album in nearly three-and-a-half years. The Philly emcee has been busy since his release. Protests for prison reform, meet-ups with billionaires, and now, dropping his best overall album. During the first few listens through, I didn’t think much of the album. I had high hopes for Meek. Due to his perseverance through adversity this street king earned a heaping slice of limelight. Artistically, this was his moment. More eyes are on Meek Mill now than ever before. Taking his craft to the next level felt like the logical step. In terms of inventive songwriting or supreme wordplay, Meek’s albums are typically lacking. However, in the traditional trap genre, Mill delivers high-quality tracks with regularity. Last year’s “Glow Up” would have my vote for Best Meek Mill Banger. What about you?
To me, Championships could have been even better with less features and more experimentation behind the boards. At 19 songs and 69 minutes, this record starts to sound like yesterday’s paper by the end. Nevertheless, a better track sequence would reveal a healthy collection of heartfelt performances. Per usual, Meek Mill’s “Intro” does not disappoint. That Philly Collins sample though? Leggo. Additionally, the album’s closer “Cold Hearted II” hit right on target. In a spoken conclusion, Meek tells, “Niggas wanna burn a bridge then expect you to send a yacht. Huh? Where they do that at?” This LP speaks for itself in more ways than one. A song I absolutely have to mention is “What’s Free,” featuring Rick Ross and now-49-year-old legend Jay-Z. Despite Ross’s off-topic bragging, his flow here is untouchable. Meanwhile, Hov’s verse is a 2018 classic, an excellent display of wisdom and finesse.
He spits, “My route better, of course / We started without food in our mouth / They gave us pork and pig intestines / Shit you discarded that we ingested / We made the project a wave / You came back, reinvested and gentrified it / Took niggas sense of pride, now how that’s free? / When people stole they soul and hit niggas with 360’s.” Sheesh! This 130-second behemoth aids in making “What’s Free” one of the decade’s best hip-hop collaborations. Here Meek successfully uses his platform to address tangible issues that deserve more attention. In addition to this triumph, lead single “Oodles O’ Noodles Babies” and “Trauma” exhibit similar substance. The former speaks on his time growing up in the streets of Philadelphia and how they shaped his belief systems. On the latter, Mill expresses more frustration with the American justice system. His fiery hook stirs the viscera.
Yet this track also tricked me. I thought I was in store for a more-eclectic-than-usual Meek Mill album. By the third track, however, things got real generic real fast. Both “Uptown Vibes” and “On Me” feature merely competent guests and forgettable instrumentals. Although the overall production on these tracks is smooth, the songs themselves leave a lot on the table. Luckily, “What’s Free” comes on next. Four of the nine solo tracks underwhelm nonetheless. Conversely, the title track goes hard. I’m against title tracks nowadays. I feel as though they put pressure on artists to encapsulate an entire album’s worth of meaning into one song. Which is impossible and why albums exist anyway. Alas, Meek elevated his game for “Championships.” Overall, this album sets a goal and achieves it. He eliminates previous redundant tendencies while expanding his flow reservoir. Can’t argue with that.