Remember when Troy Ave. got in his feelings and said something he thought everybody already knew and called Kendrick Lamar a weirdo? There was a contingency of folks that agreed with him. I mean, come on, the dude never raps about making it, per se´. He raps, largely, about getting through life as a human with his soul intact. In much the same way, J. Cole is a similar type of artist. They’re introspective and humanistic. A direct contrast to the mafioso, statue-of-liberty styled rap people were prone to spitting pre-Kanye, sans a few exceptions like Souls Of Mischief, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde and others. It should come as no surprise at all, then, that Meek Mill does not listen to J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar, and that he doesn’t find what they do inspirational. Why would it be when Meek spits about capitalism in the wild with nearly everything involving money and power? Tony Montana rap is amazing. We’re talking about the stuff that America is made of here; America’s belly button. That’s what Meek Mill, Rick Ross, and Jay Z rap about, and that’s why he’s important.
Dreams Worth More Than Money falls into a particular way of looking at the world. It’s Game of Thrones writ small, a collection of rebuttals against a system where the weak and the unlucky are shepherded out and down the swirling drain of civilization. That’s why on the opener and rapping over Mozart’s Requiem in D and specifically Lacrimosa (which is absurd and appropriate here, by the way) he thanks the judge for denying him bail and the Tory Lanez lead chorus begins, “All I wanted was a new Mercedes / Bending off the corner, whipping out the lot, I got it / Women love me, but the niggas hate it / But how can I lose when I came from the bottom? / Lord knows…”
In many ways, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole have shunned those kinds of desires. They’ve actively spent most of their careers involved with other things. With women being used by men as objects, and escaping the pressures of living in places where the madness pressing down on them causes humans to value things over people. Of course, Meek is more complicated than that. His album art is half a stack and half his father’s funeral leaflet. It’s symbolic of the struggle out of poverty that defines most people’s lives. This is where the rift takes place, though. Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole seems to see the struggle as a spiritual one. They are reaching for their humanity through the veil of poverty. For Meek and others, the veil is a financial one. They are “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps” into a realm where they must be taken seriously as humans because of what they’ve earned. These two concepts have been at the nexus of Hip Hop and of American culture since its inception: the cold world we live in can either be conquered through power or through culture. Both are probably close to being correct.
So I’m not saying that Meek Mill is trying in any way to play J. Cole or Kendrick Lamar, I’m just saying that their worldviews are so diametrically opposed at this point that expecting Meek to give a fuck about that kind of Hip Hop is absurd. It’s always been this way, and these two energies circle each other in a dance that is at the core of what it means be a capitalist and an artist in America.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.