It’s often said that timing is everything, and Meek Mill’s debut album couldn’t have arrived in a more luckless moment. The eve of his Dreams & Nightmares release brought him eclipsing circumstances in the form of Superstorm Sandy hitting the East Coast, and while folks in the Northeast were battening down the hatches and preparing for the worst, the Philly spitter promoted his album on Twitter heavily, all while sheltering a house full of relatives from the storm.
A number of @-replies and retweets attacking the rapper for being insensitive to the tropical cyclone reality at hand spilled into my Twitter timeline, and I myself, stuck in the house and concerned for friends and family, admittedly thought that maybe the active promotion was in poor taste. And I’m a fan. But can we blame him? Meek Mill had been waiting to release his first full-length album since he was 16-years-old and, conflicted by an influx of somber reports on flooded communities and power-loss, wasn’t about to allow the building odds to thwart his momentum.
Bequeathing Rick Ross and MMG some street cred, releasing two critically acclaimed Dreamchasers mixtapes, and getting scooped by the management arm of Roc Nation, Meek Mill’s movement since last summer has been pretty relentless. Since “I’m A Boss” first started to sink in, chatter about the DMX and 2Pac-compared passionate-delivery rapper was hard to quiet. He was romantically linked to Rihanna, rumored to be involved in Chris Brown and Drake’s WIP altercation, and graced a hip-hop magazine cover alone, without his MMG cohorts. Jay-Z attended his album release party in support, and even just released a verse to remix Trey Songz-featured Dreams & Nightmares track, “Lay Up.”
As if the Frankenstorm timing wasn’t bad enough – retailers who were to sell the album closed up shop and priorities shifted for displaced and paralyzed potential purchasers – residual critical euphoria from Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city release was already dimming Meek’s moment. Getting accused of being selfish to promote his life’s work during Sandy was just an additional layer of distraction for an album that, despite all this, moved 164,590 units in its first week, second only to Taylor Swift.
It may not be one of the top five albums of the year or in the hip-hop “classic” conversation, but Dreams & Nightmares is a solid album that was definitely glossed over and, by default, upstaged. As an artist whose energy was connecting with rap fans so early on, it’s discouraging to see his movement stunted by such an unfortunate cocktail of events – especially since, like Kendrick, Meek tells stories from his real life experiences. Never known for the rappity-rap verbals of his Compton-repping counterpart who’s album came out only a week shy of his own, Meek’s music is clear, loud, and direct – and he shouldn’t be punished for it. With abrasive verses that showcase the underbelly of his drug-peddling past, his tracks will club you over the head and drag you back to his lair before (maybe) allowing you walk away. Perhaps cloaked by a weaker, pop-pandering first single, the debut album boasts hard songs that shouldn’t be dismissed; if the intro title track doesn’t convince you, Boi-1da-produced “Traumatized,” “Believe It” (with Ross on the Justin Bieber/Miley Cyrus-nodding hook), “Young Kings,” “In God We Trust,” or Nas, Ross and John Legend-feature, “Maybach Curtains” should pique your interest enough to see that the album is worth spending some time with. Meek Milly deserves his moment, and we should give it to him.