What does it mean to beat the streets?

Some people might define it as growing up in the ghetto, making bad decisions whether it’s running with a gang, selling drugs, shooting or robbing people and making it out of that situation unscathed. Others might say its getting caught up in the previously mentioned crimes and beating any cases against you. Well, if you ask Meek Mill, beating the streets means neither of the above.

On Monday, Meek Mill pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor firearm charge in Philadelphia. Following the plea, prosecutors dismissed the other charges against him and Meek was officially free after spending his entire adult life on probation.

Meek held a rally outside of City hall where he announced “Meek Free” and later tweeted that he “beat the streets.”
But sorry Meek, you did not beat the streets.

At age 19, Robert “Meek Mill” Williams was caught up in a situation that would stick with him until he was in his 30’s. In 2007, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Chronology Of The Meek Mill Case, Meek was arrested on gun and drug charges and in the following year was sentenced to five months in jail for drug possession, firearms violation and simple assault.

Meek confessed to having the gun but to this day denies ever pointing it at an officer as the charges read, and also denied having any drugs on him. Meek was convicted anyway, and at this point Meek is in the system and the streets are up 1-0 on the scoreboard.

READ MORE: Meek Mill’s Criminal Case Closed, Prosecutors Won’t Seek Retrial

Following his five month sentence, Meek was blowing up with music. He dropped his Flamers mixtape in 2008 with the hit song “In My Bag” and that same year was about to reach a deal with Atlanta rapper T.I.’s Grand Hustle record label.

In 2011, following the failed deal with T.I.’s Grand Hustle, Meek inked a deal with Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group alongside his “Ambition” collaborator Wale. His track with Ross “I’m a Boss” was taking off and legends like Jay-Z and Nas were acknowledging Meek’s potential. Meek was bigger than Philadelphia and his career accomplishments tied the score at 1-1 with the streets. He was on… but there was one thing that would hold him back.

What was worse than serving five months in jail, would be serving 10 years on probation. On Wale’s song “The Helium Balloon” from his Album About Nothing, Wale and Jerry Seinfield talk about the helium balloon theory where kids (fans) love holding on to the balloon (Wale) but really want to see it fly away (have a successful career). But when they let it go, they quickly want it back. For Meek, Judge Genece Brinkley was Meek’s metaphorical little kid holding the balloon.

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Brinkley has been on Meek’s case from the beginning, and no matter how successful the “House Party” rapper got, she still saw him as a gun toting drug dealer.

In 2014, Meek was sentenced to six months in prison for what Judge Brinkley stated were multiple probation violations including posing on social media with people holding guns, scheduling out of state performances without asking his probation officer, failing to give a working phone number to his probation officer and taking shots at his P.O. on Twitter.

In some ways, this six month sentence boosted Meek’s rap career as the #FreeMeekMill hashtag gained steam in the hip-hop community and social media. The rapper’s half year sentence juiced the hype around his MMG sophomore album Dreams Worth More Than Money that went on to sell more than 200,000 copies in its first week giving Meek his first Billboard number 1 album.

Meek was out of jail by the time his album dropped, but limited travel put a cap on the money he would bring in on the road. The conviction from 2009 was now hurting Meek in 2015 and 2016 in what was the height of his career and the streets went up 2-1. The streets along with a no nonsense judge who placed the MMG signed rapper on house arrest in 2016 kept Meek pigeon holed in Philadelphia despite his career reaching far beyond the City of Brotherly Love.

READ MORE: Meek Mill Teases “Welcome to the Party” Remix

His final run in with the law would prove the most gruesome and eye opening for an evolving artist. In November 2017, Judge Brinkley sentenced Meek to 2-4 years in jail after he was arrested in New York City for riding a dirt bike, a video that was posted on Instagram by a fan.

The charges were dropped in New York, but Meek had to return to Philadelphia for violating probation. Eight years removed from his 2009 firearms charge, the streets went up 3-1 against Meek. Meek’s case had become bigger than hip-hop. The country wanted criminal justice reform and Meek was the perfect figurehead. Meek’s 2009 arresting officer was on the District Attorney’s “suspect police” list, and Judge Brinkley continuously gave Meek the harshest rulings for non-violent offenses.

Meek was released on parole in July 2018  and as he detailed in his Rolling Stone interview from jail, Meek went on the offensive to fight for criminal justice reform not just for himself, but for others who don’t have the public support that Meek does. Meek’s original conviction was also tossed out  and suddenly there was light at the end of the tunnel

Ten years removed from being arrested on gun charges, Meek plead guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge and is a free man. Travel restrictions, multiple stints in jail, and an estimated $30 million loss for a 10 year old charge at 32 years old Meek is free.

Congratulations to Meek Mill for gaining his freedom, But in his ten year battle with the law, the score at best will be scored 3-2, the streets won.