Meek Mill DC4 Dream Chasers/MMG/Atlantic

07 10

The fourth instalment of Meek Mill’s hugely popular Dream Chasers mixtape series sees the Philadelphia rapper trying to revive his career following his recent feud with Drake. This most modern of beefs kicked off with Meek using Twitter to reveal that Drake uses ghostwriters. And despite the disparity between Meek’s background and Drake’s privilege, Drake delivered a one-two punch of damaging diss tracks before flicking Meek into a bottomless pit of memes concocted by his fans and corporate sponsors.

The cover of DC4 superimposes a much younger Meek, badly beaten, over a collage of the rapper’s criminal record. This is a double-edged stab at Drake, declaring both Meek’s resilience to a beating and the street credentials that are Drake’s fantasy. It is a picture worth a thousand memes, a reminder of who Meek both was and still is. This is rebranding by way of retrenchment: as Meek raps on the first track, over a typically dramatic minor-key trap beat, he’s ‘sticking to the basics’.

Meek’s nasal yell, which strangles words at maximum volume, is what is simultaneously off-putting and thrilling about him as a rapper. He’s perhaps most exciting when rapping over the beatless loops proceeding a colossal drop; at these moments, his voice feels like a street bike revving at the starting line of a race. He excels at wringing maximum hysteria out of the crescendos and barrages of the frenetic trap production which dominates DC4.

Though grating to some, Meek’s voice is galvanising for millions of others, particularly those in the struggle, whether that be those in the streets he speaks directly to (‘This one is for my youngins going to school with corner niggas/ Don’t get caught up in that boxing corner nigga’) or nerdy music writers struggling to do a chin-up. And, as he reminds us on DC4’s soulful highlight Shine, the stakes of Meek’s struggle are high enough to warrant dramatic delivery: ‘If it wasn’t for this music, I’d probably be dead/ Instead I’m on top countin’ this bread’.

Shine transforms the drop-top sports car, a tediously persistent motif on DC4, into a rare and golden metaphor for his whole M.O as a rapper. ‘There’s no roof so they can see me shine!’ he yells defiantly, jubilantly. There’s no roof to Meek’s voice or ambition, no matter who might want to put a lid on it. It’s a potent declaration for a young black man now living in the dawn of Trumpmerica.

For all this surprising symbolic resonance, Meek’s material success would be immaterial – in more than one sense – without his musical success, which DC4 confidently reaffirms. This is a solid tape, with a couple of top-tier Meek tracks in Shine, Blessed and the operatically grandiose Litty (featuring Tory Lanez, another enemy of Drake’s). Its range is limited, sure, but while there are no surprises there are also no duds. While Drake smoothly switches lanes, from rap to pop to dancehall, Meek occupies only one – but it is his. Screaming away, exhaust-pipe belching fire, DC4 leaves those memes in the dust.

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