Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill became the face of inequities in the criminal justice system when he was sentenced to two-to-four years in prison for violating his parole in 2017. In April 2018 Mill got out after months of protests and calls for his release by people like Jay-Z, Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin, and New England Patriots CEO Robert Craft. Upon his release, Mill committed to being a voice for those who are unable to speak for themselves, and he did just that at the 2018 BET Awards.
On Sunday, Meek Mill took to the stage to perform “Stay Woke,” an emotional new tune about how racism, gun violence, and the lack of economic access affects some in urban communities.
In the song, Meek raps:
“How can I pledge allegiance to the flag
When they killin’ all our sons, all our dads?
I come from a place, when you kill your own brother you can brag
Like he got bodies, but that’s a fad, no, that’s a fact
I’m screamin’ out at your corner, n–ga, that’s a trap
Screamin’ out at your homie, n–ga, that’s a rat
Catch a case with him, bet he crack
The odds against you and they double stacked, stay woke”
During the performance, Meek painted a vivid picture of what it’s like for many Black folks in America. The set opened with two elderly men reading a news report about the murder of yet another young person at the hands of police, then continued to show children playing in the neighborhood until police arrive and begin harassing a group of young men. Things quickly escalate and an officer fires a gun, killing a little Black girl.
The haunting scene was reminiscent of many of the officer-involved shootings we’ve seen over the past few years, and had many praising Meek’s introspective performance.
When he was released from prison earlier this year, Meek Mill said, “I’m trying to use my platform and my voice.”
Judging by his new song and powerful BET Awards powerformance, it looks like Meek is serious.