A well-known tough time with the law would’ve been expected to add drag to his career, but his gnarly tenacity always made sure Meek Mill bounced back better. Meek Mill was on the cusp of joining this generation of rap’s elite, following a prison stint with the release of his 2015 album, Dreams Worth More Than Money. Everything was going pretty smoothly, until that unfortunate tweet calling out Quentin Miller as Drake’s speechwriter.
Concerns about whether he should’ve fired off the tweet or not are no longer relevant, it is how he fumbled it and ended up making it toxic to himself that ended up baffling many. Meek brought a supposedly loaded gun to a fistfight, threw the gun away and refused to land any punches when his adversary came at him. He eventually landed some (really) late jabs but the damage had been done. Meek Mill caught a loss but he didn’t stay down, if he had, it would be very uncharacteristic of him.
While he might look at the scars from the outcome of that rap feud with regret, it doesn’t carry as much gravitas as the scars Meek Mill explores and presents on his new album, Wins And Losses. While he’s trodden around some of the things he raps about on the album in his past works, there’s an urgency on Wins And Losses that is buoyed by the amount of seething pain that give importance to the triumphant moments.
“Wins and them losses turned us into bosses” is a representative line on ‘Never Lose‘, a track on which Meek acknowledges what he sees as the true hardship and losses worth mulling over. While ‘Never Lose‘ is not one of the album’s best tracks, Meek’s lyrics competently portray the crucible from which he was formed and his unrelenting attitude. A more incise track is album standout, ‘These Scars‘ which is the equivalent of Meek Mill looking at a mirror and running his hands over his scars. Over a hard-hitting off kilter drum pattern, Meek bellows out nostalgic lines decorated with pain and Guordan Banks’ searing hook only furthers the idea that making it out alive and making more money doesn’t numb the pain.
In a glaring manner, Wins And Losses is a big ode to the ‘I made it’ subtext. Which is valid, because of the mostly convincing manner with which Meek delivers his back story. Hence, there’s a ton of braggadocio and self-motivation to wade through on the album. Meek raps in his trademark “khaki flow”, bragging about turning his “impala into a wraith” on ‘1942 Flows‘, over sparse, elegant piano keys and laid back but thumping 808s. ‘Made It From Nothing’ pulls its script from its title, with excellent execution from Meek and label boss, Rick Ross. Teyana Taylor’s heaving hook is also particularly impressive and moving.
Becoming rich doesn’t mean Meek only has to deal with emotions emanating from the past. He deals with the dynamics of being rich amidst external pressure and constantly outstretched hands (‘Price‘), and also internally combats and resents fame even after escaping the streets (‘Heavy Heart’).
While many of Meek Mill’s thoughts are clear, there is little intrigue to the songs on Wins And Losses. The song titles are as straightforward as they come, meaning the songs generally hinge on execution to interest the listener and for replay value. Since many of the subjects on Wins And Losses have been harped on in his back catalog, Meek flirts with redundancy, adding also that there are rehashes on multiple songs even on this album.
Meek does get shrewd with his tactics, adjusting and borrowing flow patterns from featured artists to add diversity to the album, creating a mixed bag with mixed results. Potential trap anthem and banger, ‘Fuck That Check Up‘ plays to the strength of its guest, Lil Uzi Vert, and showcases Meek Mill as a middle ground between old, gruffy Philly rap style (Beanie Sigel) and its new age of rappers (Uzi Vert). Meek delves into twisty, sing-rapping flows which is common to Young Thug on ‘We Ball‘, who is also featured on the track. It is a flailing track that somehow piques and wanes interest at the same time. ‘Ball’ which features Quavo is definitively different but not much more desirable, it is unremarkable and flat enough for your mind to wander off and consider B.o.B’s conspiracy theories.
Sequencing is almost nonexistent, which is expected for a sprawling 17 song album that doesn’t bother itself with being concise. Filler tracks are plenty on the album, especially the cliché but largely enjoyable love songs. The album goes through differing tides in various strides, representative of the scatter shot collage of pictures on the album cover.
While the flaws befuddle it, they don’t hide the overall essence of Wins And Losses. It is both a reminder and status update on who Meek Mill is and why we like him or hate to like him.
Writer’s Rating: 3.1/5
Words by Dennis (@ayo_dennis).