“I wish I could tell 2017 Meek that he’s gonna make it through,” Meek Mill said to Billboard.
Last night (August 1), in the midst of the media madness on the Free Meek red carpet premiere in NYC, the star rapper calmly stood and reflected on how he felt watching himself on-screen, pushing through the painful and grueling process of fighting for justice during his trial shown in his new documentary.
“These were just crazy road blocks in the middle of the road,” he continued. “But when you’re going through those road blocks, you can’t see your full vision ahead of you. But you made it through and times are so much better than they were. Keep going.”
Supporters, guests, and loved ones gathered at Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City for the first look of the Free Meek documentary series, available exclusively on Amazon Prime. From friend and fellow artist, Trey Songz, to basketball’s favorite twins, Marcus and Markieff Morris, to owner of the patriots, Robert Kraft, a wide variety of supporters were under one roof to stand by Meek in celebration of the new release.
Free Meek is a five-episode limited documentary series chronicles Meek Mill’s fight for exoneration in his legal case while exposing the broader flaws of the U.S. criminal justice system. The series takes viewers all the way back to his upbringing in North Philadelphia and brings them through a detailed journey up to present day.
Here are five things we learned from the Free Meek documentary series:
Meek doesn’t remember the few days after he was released from prison
The day Meek Mill was finally released from prison felt like a dream — both a good one and a bad one. He was flown in a helicopter straight from the prison to the Philadelphia 76ers game that very night to ring the opening bell before the game, being bombarded by flurries of people who were celebrating his homecoming. Unfortunately, due to the shock of switching environments so suddenly, Meek can’t recall most of that celebratory time period. “Being locked in a cell for 24 hours, being inside for months at a time, then coming out to thousands of people around you — it was overwhelming,” he says in the documentary.
He even barely remembers seeing his son again for the first time in months. “There was the joy of being reunited with my son but I don’t even remember it. That footage of it, I’ve seen it and I’m like damn, I look happy there,” he says. “I barely remember being on the helicopter. It was just black out moments. They had me doing interviews the next day I got out of prison. All of it just felt like a dream to me.”
After a hearing, Judge Brinkley privately asked Meek Mill to remake Boyz II Men’s classic song, “On Bended Knee”
After his sentence hearing on September 5, 2016 due to travel violations, Judge Brinkley asked Meek Mill and Nicki Minaj to see them in her chambers. Out of earshot of all reporters and lawyers, Brinkley asks Meek Mill about doing a remake to Boyz II Men’s “On Bended Knee.”
“She asked me to shout out some important people like my mother, herself, Nicki,” Meek says. “I was astonished that a judge is even talking about doing a remake to a song. That was an eyebrow-raiser.”
Meek’s uncle recalls the moment Meek told him about this account right after it occurred. “He said, ‘I ain’t sellin’ out to nobody.’” Judge Brinkley denies this event ever occured.
Throughout the entire process, Meek never lost hope — and his determination inspired his legal team
Tyler Maroney and Luke Brindle-Khym of Quest Research and Investigations served as investigators who dug deep into Meek Mill’s case. The two recall that Meek Mill’s tunnel vision and unwavering sense of determination to receive justice is what pushed them to keep the fire burning and go at the case with full force.
“When we started this case, we didn’t know who Meek Mill was, but his determination is what kept us going,” Brindle-Khym tells Billboard. “He never wavered or gave up once from his belief that what went down the night he was arrested, was not how police and legal documents said it went down. He was so set in that belief and it made me realize I needed to really dig deep.”
Maroney reflects that it was also the overwhelming sense of community that motivated them. “It was not just a situation where Luke and I were out there doing the work by ourselves doing the work. We felt like we were a part of a family,” he says. “His friends, other celebrities, people who never even heard of Meek, his lawyers, even the prosecutor eventually, we were all fighting for the same goal. To be part of that momentum and energy that was headed towards justice, we kept going.”
Hurricane Sandy and a probation violation almost completely ruined one of the most pivotal moments in his career
As Meek’s rap career was exploding, raising him from hometown big fish to a nationally recognized name in the game, all signs seemed to be pointing in the right direction in 2012. That year, he released his debut studio album, Dreams and Nightmares, which marked the first time he locked in features from stars like Nas, Mary J. Blige and Drake. The project was undeniably garnering support from the industry, and Meek was busy pounding the pavement, going out to promote his album anywhere and everywhere. However, two obstacles appeared at the same time.
The wrath of Hurricane Sandy shut New York City down, making it extremely difficult for his to get around to where he needed to go. The bigger blow hit as he was cruising down the highway to Philadelphia, where he needed to catch a jet because his flight could no longer leave from New York. A cop pulled them over for having excessively tinted windows, which eventually led to having Meek standing before Judge Brinkley once again.
Meek being in Philly in that moment was considered a violation of his probation, as the last-minute change was not reflected in the schedule Meek submitted prior. She decided to tighten up his probation, not allowing him to leave to anywhere without her permission, and this was an extremely stifling addition considering this was the prime time for Meek to catapult his career with his new release.
Another probation violation: water guns
More and more things piled on top of Meek’s probation violation. During a music video shoot in 2014, Meek had props on set, including pool floaties and water guns. He posed with the water guns for a quick photo, which later on became another technical violation: posing with a firearm. Brinkley sentenced Meek to three to six months in county jail.
“In the world of being on probation, and knowing the effects of being a celebrity, I know the judge will see this. So I would never take a picture with real firearms,” Meek says in the documentary. Later on in, the series makes the case that Judge Brinkley has more of a personal vendetta against Meek Mill, and that it’s Brinkley that remains the main obstacle in Meek’s fight for freecom.