Meek Mill’s raps usually come with deadly stakes. It doesn’t matter if he’s in legal dead ends with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, digital dead ends with other rappers, or just target faceless enemies; when his back is against the wall, he’s able to make any adversity feel like a blowout from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the third act. This fervor of self against the world is what turns songs like “Dreams and Nightmares”, the intro of her debut label of the same name in 2012, into timeless hymns and her 2018 album. Championships– released more than seven months after a long battle with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court – in a celebratory major. Meek has been on a roller coaster decade and conquered (or made with) most of his enemies. His fifth album, Expensive pain, is an extended victory lap that can be thrilling and thoughtful in places, but mostly just spinning its wheels aggressively.
In the absence of a tangible enemy against which to rally the troops, the idea of ”dear pain” creeps around the edges of the album. Meek makes hundreds of thousands of dollars per show and is released from parole slavery, but money and fame can also isolate people from the world. Sometimes, like on “Intro (Hate on Me)” – the latest in his series of explosive album openers – he goes through the hustle and bustle and flexes for hell (“I put chopsticks on all my homies; they fall , they make a sound. ”) Other times, like on the title track and“ Tweaking, ”he lingers on falling out with friends for money and being told to go into therapy after admitting. cuddling his gun in bed. For better or worse, he’s far from the cold corners of the streets of Philadelphia where he cut his teeth, and the album’s best moments amplify the pros and cons of achieve wealth while mourning loved ones.
Introspection on Expensive pain is one of the most powerful in Meek’s career. He is nervous about his friends leaving prison and returning to the streets (“Expensive Pain”); he reflects on being a “gangsta for about 5 years, since my father died” (“Cold Hearted III”). His trademark puffy hymns, on the other hand, are more of a mix. There, he runs mostly on the spot, recycling well-worn stories of haters hidden in the shadows and women crouching in his bed and his wallet. He has already composed dozens of songs like “Sharing Locations” and “Me (FWM)”. The climax of the middle of the album “Hot” is especially notable for the velocity of rhythm of Nick Papz and a nimble verse from Memphis rapper Moneybagg Yo, distracting from Meek’s not very sexy sex bars. The fun and the energy are there, but there’s little that separates these Meek Mill songs from those already bulky practice playlists.
He sings more often on Expensive pain, too, but her Auto-Tuned voice is indistinct, the exact opposite of her established character. “On My Soul” aims for brilliant vocal tracks but scans like Roddy Ricch’s cosplay. He looks so much like Young Thug on “We Slide” that it’s really surprising that Thug himself shows up in the second half for a duet. Paired with one of rap’s most unique voices, Meek sounds like a deepfake. He was clearly inspired to keep pushing his voice after isolated singing moments on his 2017 album. Victories and defeats and Championships, but it’s largely an unwanted expansion, distracting attention from the more melancholy corners of Meek’s brain.
As a rapper who now has five studio albums and nearly a dozen mixtapes in his career, Meek can’t be faulted for wanting to change things. Many experiences on Expensive pain doesn’t work, and a handful of the more traditional songs on the album bleed together, but the pomp, glamor, and paranoia typical of his music usually hold up. Expensive pain is Meek’s debut album not involved or directly inspired by the controversy since 2015 Dreams that are worth more than money, a place to gain a foothold without playing defense. His soul-searching and chest pounding are just enough to keep the stakes reasonably high.
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