Album: Expensive Pain
Artists: Meek Mill
Label: Atlantic Records-Maybach Music Group
Release Date: Oct. 1
Few artists fly as successfully under-the-radar as Meek Mill. Even with anthems like “Dreams and Nightmares” still bringing clubgoers to their feet nearly a decade later, Meek has always been somewhat overshadowed by industry pioneers like Drake and Kendrick Lamar. But with a dedicated legion of stans, Meek seems unbothered by his rivals, returning as confidently and comfortably as ever on his latest album, “Expensive Pain.”
Meek has owned the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, which is immediately apparent on “Intro (Hate On Me),” where he spits against a hype beat from MCs Johnny Juliano, Yung Exclusive and Cardo that feels like a stripped down version of previously released track “On the Regular.” As energetic as ever, the Philadelphia native is quick to remind listeners of his not-to-be-trifled-with persona, presenting flows as fast and lyrics as cocky as ever.
Like most of his projects, Meek takes some time to reflect on his intense lifestyle, best seen in “On My Soul,” where a slow, piano-backed beat provides the backdrop for a somber rap on the price of success:
“Yeah, I’m gettin’ everything / Bulletproof the Range Rove’, donut the Durango
Crazy all the s--t that I obtain, I feel the same dose / My young n---a died in the streets lettin’ his flame go / And I think about it every night ‘fore I sleep, it make my brain go / Got me cuddlin’ with my glock when I sleep, can’t let my flame go.”
As always, Meek brings about a selective list of features, employing a variety of talent ranging from Kehlani to Moneybagg Yo. But the album’s guest of honor comes in the form of A$AP Ferg, who raps one of his most fast-paced earworm-inducing verses in years on “Me (FWM):”
“We been stressed, huh, pull up with a mink, look like I am Chewbacca / Blocka-blocka, turned to shottas if them coppers try to pop us / Then go sit at John and Vinny’s, have some pasta with some mobsters / Swervin’ through Philly, I'm hangin’ with Billies and nobody really can stop us.”
One of the LP’s highlights is easily “Love Train,” a ballad on toxicity and the heartbreaking betrayals that accompany the road to fame. Meek’s emotionality meshes with the beat across a somberly reflective beat to form a track that very well may leave listeners finding themselves in their own “heartbreak hotel.”
“I tried to give you all my blessings, but you couldn't receive it / ‘Cause you was listenin’ to people that was listenin’ to people / I had to get up and leave you ‘cause you couldn't even see it / All this fame, turned into a monster, shit like Resident Evil / And once the love turn toxic, think it’s better I don't see you / ‘Cause I've been runnin' up my millions, s--t been revving my ego / I put my money ‘fore my b-----s so we never get equal.”
Toward the album’s finale, Meek gives fans “Angels (RIP Lil Snupe),” a beautiful rap dedicated to Lil Snupe, Meek’s former protégé who was shot and killed in 2013 at the age of 18. Diving deeper into his personal life, the song shows just how much weight Snupe’s death had on Meek’s life, reminding listeners just how painful loss can be and to hold their loved ones tight while they’re still here:
“Sometimes I need to be alone or go to an island and clear my mind up / And you can’t cry ‘bout that street shit once you sign up / My homie called me ‘bout some cash, it fucked my mind up / N----s was bitin’ down my back, it f---ed my spine up / You ain’t even tell me that them n----s said they tryna rob us, you tryna slime us”
With a barrage of bars about great success positioned alongside lyrics discussing how lonely one can become in the heat of said success, “Expensive Pain” is one of the most fitting album titles in recent memory, revealing the hell an individual can experience privately while still seeming to have it all.
The album is far from anything new for the industry veteran, but as any longtime fan will tell you, that’s hardly a bad thing; Meek’s consistent flow and production continue to become more refined each year, as the artist maintains a savory versatility as he showcases songs for all types of listeners.
Alex Falter is the senior arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org