New Musical Express (NME) - 80 Based on rating 4/5
The rapper returns from a jail stint in a righteous mood, angry but eloquent, allowing himself to be emotional Meek Mill has got a lot of things to say. His fourth studio album 'Championships' is his first full-length release since he served five months in prison. An 18-track project with an all-star cast of hip-hop artists, it is staunch, confident and completely uncompromising.
Meek Mill is now saddled with something bigger than himself. From the moment he helicoptered out of Pennsylvania's Graterford Correctional Facility in April of this year after being imprisoned for a parole violation, he embraced his role as a poster child for criminal justice reform. "It's a shame that model probationers can be immediately put back behind bars simply for missing curfew, testing positive for marijuana, failing to pay fines on time or, in some cases, not following protocol when changing addresses," he wrote last month in a New York Times op-ed, imploring lawmakers to pass legislation granting reductions in probation time for good behavior.
The Lowdown: Meek Mill's Championships is a culmination of milestones for the Philadelphia-bred rapper that run the gamut from deeply personal to professional. Mill's coup includes his 2018 release from jail after a highly publicized probation violation and subsequent incarceration, a watershed on-the-record reconciliation with rap frenemy Drake titled "Going Bad", and his formal ascent from street phenom to the upper echelon of elite mainstream rap acts. The latter point is finalized by "What's Free" — a timely collaboration with Maybach Music Group label boss Rick Ross and Jay-Z that sets the tone for the album.
It would likely be an understatement to say that Meek Mill has had a tumultuous few years. Beginning with a rap beef with arguably the biggest artist in the world (aka Drake), it all stemmed from the fact that the OVO top dog failed to share his second album 'Dreams Worth More Than Money' on social media, as well as the accusation that he used a ghostwriter for their collaboration on album track 'R.I.C.O'. This led to the Philadelphia native receiving two scathing diss tracks, which left the internet in a frenzy and in no doubt of who the loser was.
I n recent years, Meek Mill has become better known for his brushes with the law than his music. On continued probation since a 2007 arrest for possession of a firearm, he was last year sentenced to two to four years in prison for violating his parole by performing a dirt-bike wheelie in New York. The apparent incongruity between this act and Mill's arrest spawned the widespread hashtag campaign #FreeMeekMill, a New York Times op-ed penned by Jay-Z advocating prison reform, and a petition for the rapper's release that received over 400,000 signatures.