Meek Mill was feeling right at home on Friday in Brooklyn. Fans had come out to see him, Tye DJ was playing his latest album, there was an endless supply of Bel Aire champagne and Jamaican food for him and his crew, and he was surrounded by his Ryders (The Dream Chasers family) and his riders.
"Jesus, it's hot out there," said one of the guys hired to ride dirt bikes during the afternoon's festivities at the Vesolution Pump Track in Brooklyn. It was about 95 degrees and the young man had been on the tracks made of dirt and concrete, riding and jumping his bike for hours before Meek and company came. His white tee, which read "Wins and Losses" in big, bold red lettering on the front, was drenched in sweat like he just lost a super soaker water gun fight. His momentary sanctuary was a trailer with air conditioning and a tiny fridge stocked with bottles of water.
Minutes later about two dozen other youngsters all wearing the same "Wins and Losses" tee shirt would arrive.
"Yoooo! There goes Meek right there nigga!" One of guys would point out to his friend as they both stared across the park.
"We just came, touched down in New York City," Mill said later on, explaining a little bit of his day. He and the chasers sat on a wooden deck with two sets of benches covered by tents to keep the sun out.
"We got a show we out here doing tonight for the fans in New York City. We wanted to come out in Brooklyn and touch some of the fans that purchased the album."
Indeed. You could actually buy Wins and Losses at the gate before you came in for 20 bucks.
Wins and Losses is the culmination of a musical campaign that Meek embarked on the past several months to win back some of the fans he's lost over the past two years and reward those whose loyalty for him stayed solid.
In early 2015, Meek and Nicki Minaj went public with their relationship. In late June of that year, Meek dropped his second official LP Dreams Worth More Than Money, which debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. Then the real drama ensued: three days later Meek initiated the now famous rap rivalry with Drake, and his momentum crash landed. Fans on social media had a field day mocking him. More trouble with the law followed and Meek had to go back to jail for a short stint.
In January of this year, news Meek and Nicki's hit social media.
Still, the MMG cornerstone Meek refused to be defeated. He went back to the basics. Meek focused on putting out good music that talked to the streets and connected with the clubs.
He started 2016 with a pair of EPs called 4/4 and 4/4 Part 2, and followed up that fall with the Dreamchasers 4 mixtape. The latter was acclaimed as a superior body of work by the industry and the hood alike, highlighted by the banger and appropriately titled "Litty Again," featuring Tory Lanez. Just a few weeks ago, Meek put out another EP called Meekend Music as an appetizer for his album. Wins and Losses came from a careful curation of new material and some of the hundreds of records he had in his stash.
"I just put out the ones that meant the most to me," he said about narrowing down the records to make his album. "It's called Wins and Losses, I wanted to make it like a rap album. ... I wanted it to be rounded off to a rap album and my raw emotions."
When he weighs his wins and losses in life and career, the Philadelphia rhyme champ says signing to Rick Ross' MMG is his biggest victory and the losses are all the deaths of friends and family such as his artist Lil Snupe. Too many many to name.
"You can't get a life back," he explains.
One of Meek's and the fans' early favorites off Wins and Losses is "Heavy Heart."
LeBron James was just on a social media a few days showing himself vibe to the song in the wake of Kyrie Irving's controversial and stunning request to be traded off the Cleveland Cavaliers going public.
"I kept it thriller from the very start," Meek raps on the song. "Seen so many people cross me, don't know where to start. / That bitch left me with a heavy heart./Yeah, we still on them papers they won't let me off. Never thought we'd make it out the ghetto, now look where we are./ fucking famous bitches and that pussy taste like caviar."
Despite it's sobering theme, Meek says he hasn't lost his exuberance for the hip-hop game and wants to be an even greater contributor.
"I wanna do my own thing," he described. "Do the things I want, make good music, make money. Have fun in the game, keep the culture going and inspire people to keep the culture going. That's who we do it for. I'm doing it for the culture and the art of it now. I've been in this for like six, seven years. I'm just back on my job where I want to rap and make good music and show the fans love."
Later on Friday night, Meek kept his word of spreading fan love, performing a free concert at Webster Hall which was streamed by Tidal. Last night in his hometown, Meek also gave a free show, this time at the Fillmore. He brought out Cardi B and Migos' Offset as surprise guests.