a person who has defeated or surpassed all rivals in a competition.
synonyms: winner, titleholder, defending champion, gold medalist, titlist, record holder.2. a person who fights or argues for a cause or on behalf of someone else synonyms: advocate, proponent, promoter, supporter, defender, upholder, backer, exponent.
When I think of the word “Champion” these are the definitions that first come to my mind. When this word is applied to Meek Mill and his latest offering “Championships” you can see how both definitions could apply. We as a Hip-Hop community have watched Meek grow in a literal and figurative sense. From “Dreams and Nightmares”, his stellar “DreamChasers” series and 2017’s “Wins and Losses”, Meek’s fourth solo effort seems to be a triumphant reflection of ALL of those experiences since 2011 when the first DreamChaser was released.
By this time, if you don’t expect “The Intro” of any Meek Mill album to be something that is almost indescribable, then there is no reason to read this review any further honestly. The album begins with a haunting Phil Collins sample which is now synonymous with Hip-Hop because DMX used it 20 years earlier on his debut. It was a nice nod from Meek and I feel that it was definitely for the Hop-Hop historians out there. Awesome opener.
“Trauma” doubles down on the homage. It’s instantly recognizable as Mobb Deep’s “Get Away” which is ALSO the second track on their “Infamy” album. I don’t believe that was coincidental in the slightest. Meek takes the track in a different direction however as he raps about the trappings of prison ,the oft-corrupt judicial system and how that can affect your psyche when living in the inner-city or densely populated areas.
The third track “Uptown Vibes” is so contrasting in tone that is takes me out of the album almost immediately, its a decent enough track as its a uptempo and bouncy SINGLE, but with such heavy topic matter from the previous two tracks it just feels out of place to me, the first misstep of the album.
“On Me” keeps with the same energy as Uptown, its pretty forgetful though even with the Cardi B verse which is the honestly the only highlight of that track. Don’t feel bad if you feel the urge to skip this one its ok.
“What’s Free” sends us back to the mood and feeling of the first two tracks and at this point I’m beginning to get annoyed. What album is this really? Are we sitting with this album and being reflective or are we turning up and celebrating? Don’t get me wrong we can do both because Balance but it has to be sequenced correctly. Meek continues with the sample homage as he, Ross and Jay-Z all takes turns tearing the “What’s Beef” track to shreds so whatever reservations I may have had about the early sequencing of the album has subsided for now.
“Respect The Game” relies heavily on the essence of “Dead Presidents II” which I also believe was by design considering Jay was on the previous track. When you listen to the track you can hear that Meek was really doing an updated version of the original and no one can be mad at that. I’m back on board now.
Just as I was getting immersed into the album again, I’m taken out of it when “Splash Warning” starts. I’m normally here for all things Future but as this track follows two damn near perfect tracks, it pales in comparison and should have been paired with Uptown Vibes and On Me, not sandwiched in between The previous tracks and “Championships” which is so soulful that I’m actually upset that Splash Warning was even included.
“Going Bad” IS NOT the reunion track from Meek and Drake that I wanted. Meek sounded uninspired with the lazy flow and Drake outshines him period. I feel like Drake should have took more of risk lyrically and let us in on some more personal dealings if he was on the previous track.
“Almost Slipped” is cringe-worthy at best. Meek’s vocal tone is not suited for Auto-Tune and the entire track is drenched in the effect. Simply put it’s not sonically cohesive.
“Tic Tac Toe” is a much better song by comparison. Subject matter is much to be desired but for better or worse its a banger…Generic…but a banger nonetheless. Kodak was sorely underused on the track, he deserved a verse. The type of track is better suited for Gunna or Lil Baby.
“24/7” is a groove or as the kids say, a Bop. The production is crisp with the Beyonce vocal samples from “Me, Myself And I” weaved into the beat. The track is damn near perfection, with the addition of Ella Mai, this is a definite push for radio play and playlist placements, Here’s hoping Jacqueeeeeees doesn’t do a remix.
“Oodles O’ Noodles Babies” brings it back to the original mood and tone of the album which bothers me. The songs that precede it don’t mesh with this song and should have been placed with the upper half of the album. The sequencing issues are apparently here to stay.
“Pay You Back” feels like a bonus track, I can honestly say that I don’t know where this song fits anywhere on the albums spectrum. The tone goes from reflection to unapologetic braggadocio and I don’t see any room for “Hard Bars”.
“100 Summers” is better use of Auto-Tune but its still a hard listen. The subject matter is relatable as it deals with loss, regrets, and survivors remorse. It’s the vulnerable aspect of the track that makes its listenable but that’t about it.
“Wit The Shits” is a forgettable strip club anthem, I’m sure its serving a particular section of listeners but it’s just not for me and I’m okay with that.
“Stuck In My Ways” is another Bonus Track addition, Although it fits the theme of all the songs with this similar tone on this album, it just comes off and repetitive and unoriginal especially when “Dangerous” is just as repetitive and could easily replace any of the aforementioned tracks.
“Cold Hearted II”- Is the album’s closer and at this point I’m upset. The previous three songs do not fit with this track. The content contained here is poignant and real and I’m left feeling hollow. This track could have easily followed Oodles O’ Noodles Babies and would have wrapped up the album nicely.
This is a tale of two albums. There are certain tracks and belong together while others seem so out of place that as whole its comes off as disjointed. Depending on your preference there are 10 songs that are undeniable while the other 9 are serviceable but wont do much to warrant a “Classic” rating. With this being his fourth album I can see the glimpses of growth but not enough to call it a re-brand or image overhaul. It is the same Meek Mill with some socially conscious and contemplative verses. The sequencing and overall bloated feel of the entire project is what hold it back for me. A more concise effort with none of the filler would made this a much more enjoyable listen. Maybe DreamChasers 5 will be the album I’m waiting to hear.