Meek Mill became the subject of a massive nationwide protest last year after the Philadelphia rapper was sentenced to two to four years in prison for a probation violation on a decade-old gun and drugs case. Many viewed the sentence as unfairly harsh, especially after the judge in Meek’s case came under intense scrutiny for her questionable track record. So there were widespread celebrations upon Meek’s release two months ago. Since then he’s made a handful of public appearances and cancelled a meeting with President Trump, and now he’s released his first song since being released.
“Stay Woke,” debuted in a dramatic performance at the BET Awards last night, is a duet with Miguel that addresses Meek’s own situation and much more. The first verse critiques systemic racism and the environment that creates such a slippery slope for minorities. His own arrest comes up: “You gotta feel me, feel like the system trying to kill me/ Got arrested and the charges F1 for popping wheelies.” The second verse calls for empathy for a younger generation of rappers such as the late XXXTentacion, whose face was emblazoned on Meek’s T-shirt onstage at the BET Awards:
Picture me 10 years younger with some tats on my face
Taking a bunch of Xannys with the strap on my waist
Pointing at the camera like mama ain’t teach me manners
Moving a little rock like I’m heading to Alabama, no, wait
I can’t judge them, I’m just trying to understand them
Cause I used to pop Percs, pouring purple in my Phantom
The third verse returns to the wider American situation: “How can I pledge allegiance to the flag/ When they killing all our sons all our dads?/ I come from a place when you kill your own brother you can brag.” There’s also a note of triumph, with Meek bragging that he’s too valuable to be dropped from his label and noting congratulations he’s received from Eminem and Jay-Z. Meanwhile Miguel’s there with a characteristically infectious hook. Listen to “Stay Woke” below, where you can also watch last night’s performance.