All things considered, Philadelphia has had a pretty good year. The city hosted the DNC, got the first round pick in the NBA draft, and are looking at one of the biggest public works projects in the city’s history. Who would’ve thought another win for the City of Brotherly Love would come from its problem child — Meek Mill.
Meek has always suffered from the same issues as most rappers signed to Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group: stylistic stagnation. Call it “gangster” or “street” rap, whatever it is, it isn’t new and it isn’t fresh. In his third album, Meek looks to change the narrative.
New Meek, post-street. He isn’t relying on credit, but on skill.
For an artist constantly concerned with, plagued by and thinking about dreams, Wins & Losses is Meek’s most grounded album to date. A true to form comeback album after very public personal and musical struggles, Wins & Losses needed to re-cement Meek’s position in the 2017 rap cannon and humanize his experience. Modestly, the album accomplishes those two goals.
Wins & Losses is polished, and songs like “We Ball (feat. Young Thug)” provide a glimpse into a softer, remorseful side of Meek. An homage to the late Lil Snupe and a testament to the pressures of celebrity: “And I can’t trust nobody/ They hit your homie and they knocked the soul out him/ They said that they would ride or die, but ain’t nobody roll ‘bout it/ Three felonies, ain’t graduate, no I am not your role model/ I hope the Lord got us.” This track is new Meek, post-street. He isn’t relying on credit but on skill.
On the other side of the spectrum, tracks like “Connect The Dots (feat. Yo Gotti & Rick Ross)” are classic Meek — the battle-rapping, aggressive underdog track. After seven releases (including mixtapes) you come to expect this sort of song from him, and there’s no doubt it will be played on repeat in locker rooms and blasted out of car speakers.
On “Heavy Heart,” he challenges the world. Meek clearly has the chops to spar with any of his naysayers with a meet-me-outside swagger: “I made a mil, I got a deal, I lift the whole team up/ I had the whole squad lit, I had the city poppin’/ I told my dog don’t listen to them, get caught up in that gossip/ They wanna see you in the hood back when you ain’t got shit.” He’s uniquely self-aware, stepping into a new fold as an artist.
An album highlight comes late in “Young Black America,” as a JAY-Z sample and hook from The-Dream helps Meek dive deep into the psyche of his own experience. Half reflective, half reporting live from his block: “It’s none of my business, my business, just telling my story/ All guns, no glory, been going on before me/ We slaves in the ’40s, still slaves in the present/ No toys for Christmas, ain’t get us no presents.” Meek challenges himself and the perceptions about his music with Wins & Losses, and has made an album to be proud of.
We slaves in the ’40s, still slaves in the present
No toys for Christmas, ain’t get us no presents.
However, at 17 tracks, the album is far too long. Cutting it down to a 12-track album would trim the fat without compromising the message. Forgettable tracks like “Ball Player” and “Glow Up” take power away from the album. If you sit back and look at the powerhouse of hip-hop and rap projects that have already dropped this summer — like Big Fish Theory, 4:44, DAMN., and ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ — will you remember Wins & Losses? Maybe not. But does it give Meek Mill an interesting new platform and role in the hip-hop lexicon of 2017? Most certainly.
Listen to Wins & Losses on Spotify and for a slightly less nuanced review, my brother weighs in below: