Incarceration is not keeping Meek Mill's voice from being heard.
Far from it.
On Sunday, the Philadelphia rapper serving a 2 to 4 year sentence for parole violation, heard his fiery 2012 "Dreams & Nightmares" used as intro music as the Philadelphia Eagles took the field for Super Bowl LII. And the NFL champions' hype song is also heard nightly by process trusters as intro music for the Philadelphia 76ers during home games at the Wells Fargo Center.
Now the rapper has a fresh verse on a new remix of Detroit rapper Tee Grizzley's 2016 hit "First Day Out." Mill's rhymes were almost certainly recorded before he went to jail, but releasing music while in prison puts him in along tradition of rappers who have maintained a connection with their fans while under lockup.
The latest and most prolific example is Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane, who released multiple mixtapes while in prison between 2014 and 2016. And it's a tradition that goes back at least as far as British-born rapper Slick Rick who released Behind Bars in 1994 while doing time for attempted murder, and Tupac Shakur, who's Me Against the World, came out the next year while the rapper was serving a sentence after being convicted of sexual assault.
In some cases, prison records are conceived and completed before an artist begins his sentence, but more typically they're assembled by producers on the outside, using unreleased verses that prolific emcees have accumulated over a period of years, stored on hard drives and are ready to be repurposed.
On "First Day Out," Mill doesn't spit about his current predicament, but talks about past triumphs, from dating Nicki Minaj ("I done bagged a pop star") to hanging with Jay-Z ("Pourin' Ace up with Hov") to his front row tickets at the Wells Fargo Center for Sixers-Cleveland Cavaliers games ("I got floor seats watchin' 'Bron ball"). He also assures us that he has plenty of cash available: "I'm from Philly, n—-, and that money long as Broad Street."
Tea Grizzley, born Terry Wallace, takes care of contemporizing the song. He tosses in a "Free Meek" or two, and while claiming that his pile of money is "tall as Shaq," boasts that he "won 50 on the Eagles, split it with my dogs." Is the song so up to the minute that he's referring to the Super Bowl victory? It seems so: Grizzley also has a line in his new "First Day Out" verse about his fellow Motor City native whose strip sack of Tom Brady in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game was a play of epic importance in the Eagles victory: "Brandon Graham from Detroit … that's home right?"
Listen to "First Day Out" below.