Just weeks after a Philadelphia appeals court overturned a 2008 conviction that kept Meek Mill locked in the criminal justice system for his entire adult life, the rapper is telling his side of the story in the new Amazon Prime miniseries, Free Meek.
Born Robert Rihmeek Williams, the 32-year-old rap star was convicted for drug and gun possession when he was 19. In addition to serving a year behind bars for the charges, Mill spent the last 11 years of his life on probation and served several other stints in jail for technical probation violations. For instance, the hip-hop star was sentenced to two to four years behind bars in 2017 for a series of minor, non-violent violations that included performing a motorcycle stunt while shooting a music video. As a result, he spent five months in prison before being released in April 2018 and emerging as a face of criminal justice reform in America.
The five-part docuseries chronicles Mill’s case and how it put his budding rap career in jeopardy. The journey begins with an in-depth look at the violent, gang- and drug-ridden community he grew up in North Philadelphia. The series also shows a dramatic reenactment of the night that Mill says he was assailed and beaten by police. Although he admits that he was carrying an illegal firearm at the time, Mill asserts that he threw the gun on the ground and immediately surrendered to the cops. Yet, he says he was beaten into unconsciousness and then charged and convicted on 19 counts.
“I never thought that there would be a day that I would be doing a docuseries or even sharing my story [with] the world about my life, the trauma I went through, [and] the ups and downs that I went through with the system,” Mill told BLACK ENTERPRISE. Ultimately, the legal bout taught him to “never give up, never stop.”
A number of high-profile activists, entertainers, and allies appear in Free Meek, including executive producer Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, organizer Tamika Mallory, investigative reporter Paul Solotaroff. While advocating to vindicate Mill, they also call for a legal overhaul to free the millions of other people currently trapped in the probation system.
“He is a quintessential brother trying to do good; trying to make a positive change for his life, for his art, for his calling,” said Van Jones, a TV host on CNN and the CEO of Mill’s Reform Alliance nonprofit. “He’s unjustly accused, unjustly convicted, unjustly harassed by a corrupt judge, and he fights back and he wins.” Jones also commended the hip-hop star for using his platform to advance criminal justice reform and revealed that they are working to make systemic changes. “I can tell you, we’re about to change some laws now.”
BE also spoke with QRI private investigators Tyler Maroney and Luke Brindle-Khym, who worked to successfully overturn Mill’s original conviction last month. They said they were happy that Free Meek will continue to shed light on the case. “This was not just a legal battle. But this was a battle that needed to be fought in the public domain,” said Brindle-Khym. “This was also a PR battle, and that the more we could release to the public what we were finding, which was evidence of police corruption and wrongdoing, the more that would galvanize the public, and the media and lawyers, and anyone who cares about this issue, to contribute to what ultimately happened to Meek, which was his conviction having been overturned.”
Following his release from prison last year, Mill released a multiplatinum-selling album, Championships, where he addressed his ongoing fight for freedom and launched a new record label with Jay-Z, marking the beginning of a new chapter for the emcee on the business side of the music industry. “I’ve been in the music industry for 10 years. I’m 32 years old. So, my goal is to set up a business foundation around me so that I can live the way I’m living forever.”
Free Meek premieres on Amazon Prime Video on Aug. 9. Watch the trailer below.