Photo: Maybach Music Group/Warner
Is being signed to Maybach Music Group holding back Meek Mill back? Not on the face of things. On its release this weekend Dreamchasers 2 knocked the internet's biggest mixtape site offline under the strain of 1.5 million clicks in little over 5 hours.
Meanwhile, Meek was celebrating his 25th on a private yacht in his hometown Philly, accepting chrome-plated keys for a 2012 Range Rover as a birthday present from Rick Ross.
On the face of things, Meek Mill's career has taken a sharp upward turn since being scooped up by Maybach Music Group last February after a false start at T.I.'s Grand Hustle. However, like Wale, another rapper whose career Ross snatched from obscurity at the last moment, he's also had to undergo a slight personality transplant since signing on, making space for Rozay's preferred brand of silk-shirted raps at the expense of gritty authenticity.
While the trappings of association with Maybach Music Group, the press conferences and the high-budget mixtape videos, may have boosted Meek's profile and precipitated an avalanche of expectation amongst fans Dreamchasers 2 demonstrates, the label's flashy image doesn't always bring out the best in young rapper.
Meek chops between stories of his new money adventures and early struggles in Philadelphia throughout the tape, and only ever sounds genuinely inspired when focusing on the latter. "Everytime I made money it was here, I said/ And if my n*ggas asked for it, it was yeah I said/ Selling butter just to get the fam' bread I spread/ I got married to the streets and it was here I wed," he raps on 'Use To Be.' It's a huge leap from the other, MMG-manicured side of Robert Williams showcased on the next track 'Flexin', where he disinterestedly bounces tired couplets over a throwaway Jahlil beat: "Purp got me bent/ If you aint talking about no money, you aint talking no sense."
'Big Dreams' is another tale of street ambition on which Meek ditches the often-predictable flow and trades intensity for sincerity -- a combination which also produces the mixtape's highest point, an angry response to a disapproving District Attorney delivered over Drake's 'The Ride.' If Meek was to ever stand trial for forgetting where he came from, it serves as Exhibit A in his defence. "I went to court the other day, the DA said she hate me," he explains, sounding pretty hurt about it. "How she gonna hate me when I just took 20 racks and put coats on them kids' back?"
However, glossy, MMG-monogrammed rap is what Dreamchasers 2 aims to showcase, and it's assisted by the type of quality beats you'd expect from a tape released under Rick Ross' watch. Note it's not all the metal-clanging Lex Luger derivatives that can bog down Maybach releases, with the first three beats on the mixtape showing a diversity that hits the mark on every count, especially producer KeY Wane's church organ roll on the Drake-assisted 'Amen.'
Drizzy is one of a long list of A-list collaborators, most of whom do their spot justice. The Young Money rhymer's verse is comfortably the best of the bunch, arguably one of the best on the entire tape, with Wale's freewheeling charisma on 'Take U Home' and the 'House Party' remix, a show-stealing verse from Kendrick Lamar ("I grab my d*ck in the picture, your hoe be cropping the image") and a classic Rozay hook on 'Everyday' sticking out as other welcome contributions.
Dreamchasers 2 is strong enough that it's easy to forget it's simply a prologue to late Summer's main event, Dreams & Nightmares. However, it also lacks the stand-out events necessary to convince sceptical fans he's more than simply a competently-skilled mouthpiece for Maybach Music Group's impudent, high-luxe lifestyle. Is MMG holding Meek back? We'll see come August 28.