No one throws a party in Philadelphia like Meek Mill.
As the first few notes of “Intro” from his most recent album, Championships, blasted through the Met on North Broad Street on Friday to a montage of clips of the rapper from the last year — Mill getting into the helicopter that would ferry him to the Sixers game right after his release from prison, for example — the crowd shook with glee. Hundreds of phone screens came out, lighting up the floor. And as Philadelphia’s resident rapper appeared amidst clouds of fog, his smile as bright as the diamond chains glittering around his neck, the screams of elation reached such a fever pitch that one could barely tell when Mill actually started rapping.
“It’s Meek Mill weekend,” he shouted after the first track, referencing the City Council resolution celebrating his art and commitment to criminal justice reform announced on Thursday. The crowd responded with a huge roar.
Mill’s Friday and Saturday appearances at the Met were part of his Motivation Tour, a 16-city trek that began in Miami and will end in Atlanta next weekend. It’s a triumphant lap of victory for the North Philly-raised rapper after he was sentenced in November 2017 to two to four years in prison for a parole violation from an old gun and drug charge, only to be released last April after international outcry. It’s also a way for Mill to share how his stint in prison has changed him with his fans in a more intimate setting. (Since his release, he headlined Made in America and Powerhouse 2018 last fall.)
He rolled through such crowd-pleasers as the Latin-influenced “Uptown Vibes” and his verse from “Going Bad,” his first collaboration with Drake since squashing their beef last September at the Toronto rapper’s show in Boston. He also brought out some older material, such as “House Party” from his 2011 mixtape, Dreamchasers. The crowd rapped every lyric back to him. One fan took off his hoodie and began whipping it around his head like a lasso. Another whipped out a lighter in full view of security and held it high above his head.
“I’ve been around the world on tours,” Mill told the crowd. “But Philadelphia is the best city.”
Mill made good use of the screen behind him, showing imagery throughout the show from his most recent music videos, recording sessions with other artists, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s mugshots from Birmingham, Ala. Sizable bursts of fire and giant plumes of fog accentuated the high-energy moments of his set.
The rapper closed his performance, which, disappointingly, did not feature any appearances from his Philly-based peers, with “Dreams and Nightmares,” forever part of the city’s cultural fabric now thanks to the Eagles’ Super Bowl win.
“Hold up wait a minute,” he rapped to an increasingly excited crowd. “Y’all thought I was finished? When I bought that Aston Martin y’all thought it was rented?”