Why does Meek Mill get into so many beefs?

Meek Mill will take the stage in front of a friendly hometown audience Friday when he plays Power 99's Powerhouse concert along with Wiz Khalifa and Trey Songz.

What is it about Meek Mill that gets him in all these beefs? The North Philly rapper has been dominating headlines lately more for his public arguments with other musicians than for his music.

It seems like it's Meek Mill vs. the world.

Mill will take the stage in front of a friendly hometown audience Friday when he plays Power 99's Powerhouse concert along with Wiz Khalifa and Trey Songz. But will he acknowledge the rap drama he's at the center of?

Rap beefs have been a part of hip-hop since the genre's inception, whether through breakdancing or DJ battles. These beefs have created some great music, like Ice Cube's "No Vaseline," Jay Z's "Takeover," Nas' "Ether," and 2Pac's "Hit 'Em Up." Last year, Drake's "Back to Back," his Mill diss track, earned him a Grammy nomination.

Mill is no different from the rappers who have battled before him.

Last year, his infamous beef with Drake began when Mill tweeted that Drake didn't write his own raps, and it resulted in memes and diss tracks that became part of the pop cultural conversation. It's safe to say Mill lost.

Things were quiet for a while. Then, last month, rapper the Game accused Mill of implicating him in a jewelry jacking involving singer-rapper Sean Kingston. Once again, the diss tracks, Instagram jabs, and name-calling (thus the hashtag: #SqueakMill) commenced.

Mill's most recent feud is close to home. Once allies, he and fellow Philly rapper Beanie Sigel are at odds after a member of Mill's crew allegedly jumped Sigel during last month's Bad Boy Reunion tour.

Aaron Smith, assistant professor of Africology and African American studies at Temple University, said Mill gets caught in these rifts because "he is the one."

Yes, like Neo from The Matrix.

Philly, Smith says, is the battle-rap capitol. Out of many who wanted it, Mill is the one who made it. He's commercially successful; he has ties to rap heavy hitters like Rick Ross, who signed him to his Maybach Music Group; he makes money not just from music, but from endorsements, and he's been dating rap goddess Nicki Minaj. His rise is meteoric.

But Mill isn't just successful, Smith said, he's confident and vocal about it.

On "From Da Bottom," from his 2013 mixtape Dreamchasers 3, Mill rapped: "They screaming be humble, boy be humble / But ain't nobody say that when my stomach used to rumble."

"Do you really have a problem with Meek Mill or with his success?" asked Smith.

 

Smith likens Mill to Jay Z, not because of talent or business prowess, but because their confidence and unapologetic desire to win make them targets.

If Mill doesn't get caught up in the drama of the beef, like Jay Z, Smith said, he can rise above it.

It's not just his current position in the rap game, but his backstory. He grew up poor and has a criminal record. When Mill raps about street life, it's more than a front. He lived it.

 

James Peterson, director of Africana studies at Lehigh University, says it's Mill's reputation that makes him susceptible to rap beefs. "Meek is the kind of artist who comes from the streets," said Peterson. "Unfortunately, that's the kind of artist people want to test."

Peterson said because Mill's street credibility cannot be questioned, it makes him a prime target for an artist's whose credibility has been.

Drake, for example, is a target in his own right because he started his career as an actor on the Canadian teen drama Degrassi and his lyrics have been called overly emotional. But in his battle with Mill, the sweater-wearing singer-rapper got street cred for coming out on top.

And what is street cred in the hip-hop industry? It's marketing.

Beefs in hip-hop have always been about authenticity. But as hip-hop reaches its middle age, beefs have become more marketable and formulaic.

Sigel doesn't need street cred, but he's gotten a lot attention and done a fair share of radio interviews in the last few weeks because of his feud with Mill. Smith pointed out that Sigel's last three songs were Mill diss tracks. Though the former State Property rapper has always been a Philly rap fixture, his name has been in the mouths of teenagers since the beef began.

The Game started his squabble with Mill right before the release of his album 1992, which came out this month. It debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200.

As Forbes noted, the extended promotion of Mill's sophomore album, Dreams Worth More Than Money, and Drake's OVO Fest in Toronto coincided with their feud.

But Christanna Ciabottoni, account executive at Skai Blue Media, advises that the "any press is good press" mentality is a myth and that bad press can destroy a career.

The internet and, more specifically, social media, have remixed rap beefs, Ciabottoni said.

"In the past, [rappers] had time to respond more thoughtfully through their music and not just react," Ciabottoni said. "Some really great songs were born because of beefs when there was no social media fueling the fires."

Rappers and their labels aren't the only ones with something to gain. Corporations have leveraged beefs for their branding purposes. Whataburger, Rosetta Stone, and even Planned Parenthood weighed in on Twitter in the Drake vs. Meek battle. It makes them seem relevant.

 Ciabottoni advises artists to "keep the beef on wax and channel all the creativity born of disagreement into a positive product."

But with Mill given a stage in front of thousands at Power 99's Powerhouse on Friday, will he let the work do the fighting for him? Or will he add fuel to the fire in front of a crowd likely to rally around him?

Smith is confident Mill will come out on top if he continues to let the music speak for itself.

"He'll bring artists under him to the next level," Smith said, "after realizing who his real friends are."

sballin@phillynews.com

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@sofiyaballin