I can see why people are calling Championships a comeback album for Meek Mill. With a viable career, he was easily destroyed in a rap battle by the world’s most popular rapper, broke up with his girlfriend (who is also a pretty famous rapper) from a highly public relationship, and then got sent back to jail (For supposedly not remaking a Boyz II Men song).
But the good thing, for Meek at least, is that everybody loves a comeback story. His jail sentence, that steamed from a seemly frivolously ten year probation sentence, turned him into the poster child for jail reform. This got him backing by new powerful allies like New England Patriots owner Robert Craft, Philadelphia 76ers owner Joshua Harris, and even Drake. For now Meek Mill is a free man and it seems like his music stock is up.
But that brings up another question: With Meek now publicly speaking out about social issues and gaining attention for doing so, will this affect his music? He already tried a more conscious take with songs like “Stay Woke”, but it felt like nobody really gave a shit.
Championships will be the true litmus test on Meek Mill’s place in the current rap game. Will this album push Meek to new levels? Let’s find out.
Produced by Papamitrou & Andrew Meoray
Meek Mill is known for starting off his albums strong; his best song is arguably the enthusiastic intro on his debut album Dreams & Nightmares. He keeps that trend going by starting off Championships in a similar fashion.
At first I wasn’t into “Intro” heavily sampling Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight”, but the song grows on you and it’s used in line with Meek’s tone (It’s also a small flex because ain’t no telling how much it cost to sample). Get ready to hear this before sports events and NBA 2K reveal trailers.
Produced by Don Cannon & Rance 1500
Speaking samples, this song samples Barclay James Harvest’s “Taking Me Higher”. Most people will say he just flipped Mobb Deep’s “Get Away” but it’s doesn’t matter because I’m all for it either way.
Meek does a good job in terms of riding the beat which is impressive when you realized that the lyrics go in stark contrast of the dreamy production. You can hear the pain in Meek’s voice as you hear his rapping about the jail system, drugs, and PTSD. Get away.
3. Uptown Vibes
Featuring Fabolous & Anuel AA; Produced by Papamitrou
“Uptown Vibes” was one of the first songs I heard off Championships and I didn’t write much about it because I didn’t have much to say about it. It’s not a bad Spanish influenced track and I understand Meek trying to jump on that wave, but it’s also forgettable.
4. On Me
Featuring Cardi B; Produced by Bennywond3r & Bangladesh
If you thought Meek Mill’s past relationship with Nicki Minaj was gonna stop him from working with Cardi B, you are highly incorrect (Plus both artists are signed to Atlantic).
While Meek and Cardi don’t show much chemistry, the collaboration works because they got the right feature to make a strip club/twerk song (The beat even includes the words “Booty” backed in). Mission accomplished.
5. What’s Free
Featuring Jay-Z & Rick Ross; Produced by Tarik Azzouz & StreetRunner
When looking at the tracklist, “What’s Free” featuring Jay-Z & Rick Ross is in the top two of most anticipated songs (It’s also Meek’s favorite track on the album). And once again Meek uses a recognizable sample by leaning on The Notorious B.I.G.’s classic “What’s Beef?” and flipping it to “What’s Free?”.
All the rappers involved turn in good verses (I’m not even gonna speak on Rozay use of a gay slur in his), but Jay-Z steals the show with the final/longest verse as he celebrates Black excellence and even takes shots at President 45 himself.
In a world where big names don’t guarantee a worthy song, “What’s Free” works.
6. Respect the Game
Produced by Beat Menace, Papamitrou, & Rance 1500
Speaking of Jay-Z, Meek continues the theme of using classic samples and samples Jigga’s “Dead Presidents” on “Respect the Game” (The sample is technically Lonnie Liston Smith’s “A Garden of Peace” but only insane people like me know that off the top of my head).
Meek uses this time to recall and talk about street life:
We dodged all the feds and they traps
Niggas can’t be us ’cause they rats
Stand tall, point a finger, never that
I knew a nigga had it all, went to the B, ain’t get it back
One of Meek’s strength is rapping about going from rags to riches and this song is a good example of that.
7. Splash Warning
Featuring Future, Young Thug, & Roddy Ricch; Produced by ATL Jacob
Hopefully this will be the last Jay-Z reference in this review, but is Future making sound effects to recreate “Dirt Off Your Shoulders”?
As for the song, “Splash Warning”, this could’ve been left off the album if we’re being honest. This is basically a generic Future song with a Meek verse added. *shrugs* SKIP.
Produced by Dario Productions & Rance 1500
Okay. This is more like it. I’m all for the soulfulness of the album’s title track, “Championships”, and you can tell some time was taken for the production. With no hook, the track skillfully samples Toney Fountaine’s “I Found The Girl” and lets Meek drops some knowledge and well as reminiscent on worse times:
And I ain’t come here to preach
I just had to say somethin’ ’cause I’m the one with the reach
Youngin’ gotta quarter ounce, he tryna turn into Meech
Ain’t had no daddy, he’s had to learn from the streets
I used to be a honor roll student, damn
Then I turned to a beast
The first time I seen a nigga get some blood on his sneaks
He had on Air Max 93s but was slumped in the street
9. Going Bad
Featuring Drake; Produced by Westen Weiss & Wheezy
If you would’ve told me that three years after the release of “Back To Back” that Drake would have a feature on Meek’s album, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are with “Going Bad”.
The song is cool and while it’s currently marked Meek’s highest charting song ever on Billboards Hot 100, I feel it’s more about what it represents. Yes, Drizzy brought out Meek Mill at his concert back in September but “Going Bad” makes everything official and on record. It’s wouldn’t surprise me if this song was rushed to make the album, but I guess can’t hate on it.
10. Almost Slipped
Produced by The Trillionaires & Maaly Raw
I never been a fan of Meek Mill singing and that goes extra for Auto-Tine singing. The tone of this song feels like it’s for the ladies but the he’s rapping about almost falling in love with a “hoe” who has a high body count. Nah. SKIP.
11. Tic Tac Toe
Featuring Kodak Black; Produced by Tay Keith
On paper, a song by Meek Mill featuring Kodak Black and produced by Tay Keith sounds great. And it probably could be. But what we get is just a serviceable club record. Kodak handles the hook as Meek brags about hoes and whatnot. This should have been better.
Featuring Ella Mai; Produced by Austin Powerz, E.Y, OZ, & Pro Logic
Meek gives us another song for the lady folk but this one samples Beyoncé’s “Me, Myself and I” and I don’t hate this one. It feels like Meek Mill says the same thing when he rapping to women which mostly consists of spoiling them.
Ella Mai sounds great here and made me realize that sometimes she sounds a lot like a young Beyoncé.
13. Oodles O’ Noodles Babies
Produced by Butter Beats & Kendxll
This was one of the first songs Meek dropped in preparation of Championships release (I already mentioned that the other was “Uptown Vibes”). The song speaks about being raised in poverty in a violent neighborhood with the title referencing having nothing to eat expect Oodles O’ Noodles.
The song samples Mother’s Finest “Love Changes” which helps gives the track a nostalgic feel to it. The song still feels like something is off but I’ll take it.
14. Pay You Back
Featuring 21 Savage; Produced by CuBeatz & Wheezy
Things get sinister as Meek & 21 Savage are out for revenge on “Pay You Back”. This is an old fashion, over-the-top gangster rap song that will always be a guilty pleasure. I especially like 21’s verse as he talks about felling like John Wick and wishing he was born in the 90’s “cause this 2k shit full of weirdos”.
15. 100 Summers
Produced by Hit-Boy
I saw that “100 Summers” was produced by Hit-Boy and got kinda excited. And then I realized that it features Meek Auto-Tune singing for the WHOLE SONG. The beat ain’t bad either but… SKIP.
16. Wit the Shits (W.T.S)
Featuring Melii; Produced by C-Sick
This is basically “On Me” Part 2 and but instead of Cardi B, it includes another Spanish female rapper named Melii. I wasn’t familiar with Melii but when I Googled name (Audrey Ducasse) she apparently shot a man in the neck last year. Damn. She is “Wit the Shits”.
As for the song, this is another one that probably should have been left off the album. Meek isn’t his most lyrical sharp here as he has lines like “Fuckin’ these ratchet bitches, stay on her knee like Kaepernick”. Wow.
17. Stuck in My Ways
Produced by Cardo
This is an appropriate song as “Stuck in My Ways” feels like a song that Meek has already released. That’s not necessary a bad thing. It’s more of Meek bragging over a piano laced production. More importantly I can see your favorite Instagram model twerking to this one (“If shawty a baddie, I hit from the front/She got a fatty, I hit from the back”). So that’s something.
Featuring Jeremih & PnB Rock; Produced by Prince Chrishan & Hitmaka
If “Dangerous” isn’t an official single off Championships, the radio is sure acting like it. Off all the times that Meek tries to appeal to women on this album, this track is easily the best offering. It doesn’t do anything new but it’s well produced. More importantly it let’s Meek just rap and leaves the singing to Jeremih and PnB Rock (Who I swore was Ty Dolla $ign). You’ll most likely hear this song a few times.
19. Cold Hearted II
Produced by Beat Menace, Papamitrou, & Rance 1500
After listening to “Cold Hearted II”, I kinda wish we had more songs like this on this album. First off, I barely remember the first “Cold Hearted”, but going back and checking it out, it’s actually not a bad song and thankfully this is a worthy sequel. Meek Milly explains why he doesn’t deal with some of his old friends and even has a moment at the end where he just talks about past issues.
The production features a well used sample of The Weeknd’s “I Was Never There”. The subject of betrayal from close friends is covered a lot in rap music but seeing as what Meek has recently gone through, this comes off a genuine.
And that ends Championships.
As with a lot of current releases from rappers, Championships is too damn long and has too many tracks. The album also felt more like a playlist than an album, and maybe that’s just the new thing we need to get use to with a majority of future major Hip-Hop releases.
That’s not to say there wasn’t some highlights. Being old as hell, I’m all for Meek Mill rapping over classic and recognizable beats. The star-studded features on Championships are mostly wins too. The fact that he got verses from Drake, Jay-Z, and Cardi B all on one project show that Meek has respect from his peers.
As for negatives, when Meek tries to go commercial, you can tell it immediately and on Championships, most of those attempts don’t land at all.
That brings me to the people looking for a more conscious version of Meek Mill on the this release. To an extent, Meek has always talks about the ills of growing up in the hood, so that is still there in these songs. You do get more references to the prison system on this album but it’s mostly still the same Meek asking beautiful women to spit in his mouth (That’s a thing he really likes I guess).
The best way to look at Championships is that it’s Meek Mill at full star power. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s his best work but it’s his music with big features and expensive samples. But it’s still mostly the same Meek. And with what it took for Meek to get to this position, I guess that’s deserve a trophy.