From the streets of North Philly, MC and label head Meek Mill is known as much for his rhyme skills as his frequent rap rivalries and legal scuffles. He established his foundation with battle rapping and the traditions of '80s hip-hop, building a reputation in underground circles and, together with group the Bloodhoundz, issuing a handful of mixtapes before he was propelled to fame by appearances on the Maybach Music Group compilation Self-Made, Vol. 1 in 2011. In addition to his 2012 debut Dreams & Nightmares, he issued two additional top three efforts in 2015 (Dreams Worth More Than Money) and 2017 (Wins & Losses). After a 2017 parole violation led to a prison sentence -- which attracted an outpouring of high-profile public support -- he was released in 2018.
Born Robert Rihmeek Williams in South Philadelphia, he was raised on the northside of the city by his mother, who struggled to support him and his sister. He was influenced by hip-hop at a young age, inspired by the likes of family musicians and local rappers Will Smith, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Chic Raw, and Vodka. Sharpening his skills as a battle rapper, he later joined with his friends to form the underground rap group called the Bloodhoundz. The quartet released mixtapes during the latter half of the 2000s, while Williams issued his own solo works on the side, including the Flamers and Dreamchasers series. The output prompted offers from Warner Bros. and T.I.'s Atlantic-affiliated Grand Hustle. Williams signed with the latter in 2008, but his career was sidetracked by a prison term. Once free, he continued pushing mixtapes, and in 2011 was included in XXL magazine's annual Freshman Class feature. Williams never released a proper album for Grand Hustle. Instead, he moved to Rick Ross' Warner-distributed Maybach Music Group and debuted there on Self Made, Vol. 1. Two collaborations with Ross, "Tupac Back" and "Ima Boss," hit the Billboard rap chart. The latter earned Williams the first of several gold certifications from the RIAA.
In October 2012, after he was heard on one of the versions of Wale's number 64 Hot 100 single "Bag of Money," taken from Self Made, Vol. 2, Williams finally released his debut album. Dreams and Nightmares entered the Billboard 200 at number two. Its biggest hit was "Amen" (featuring Drake), which peaked at number four on the rap chart. That month, he also launched his own label, Dream Chasers Records.
Between albums, Williams appeared on the third volume of Self Made, added to his mixtape and singles discographies, and contributed to a slew of tracks from the likes of Kid Ink, DJ Khaled, and Jazmine Sullivan. Album two, Dreams Worth More Than Money, entered the Billboard 200 chart at number one in June 2015. A pair of singles hit the rap Top Ten and went platinum: "All Eyes on You," featuring Chris Brown and then-flame Nicki Minaj, and "R.I.C.O," assisted by Drake, with whom he'd engage in a highly publicized public beef later that summer. Following a period of house arrest, Williams released DC4, the fourth volume in his Dream Chasers mixtape series, in October 2016. It made its Billboard 200 debut at number three. The following year, a handful of singles -- including "Whatever You Need," produced by DJ Mustard and featuring Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign -- led to his third proper album, Wins & Losses.
At the end of 2017, Williams was sentenced to a multiple-year prison term for parole violation. The sentencing was deemed as unfair by observers who cited apparent conflicts of interest on behalf of the presiding judge. Reports of mishandling of an earlier arrest also came to light, resulting in public support -- from fans to local politicians, athletes, actors, and fellow musicians -- which prompted his early release in the spring of 2018. That summer, he issued the EP Legends of Summer, which landed in the Top Ten and featured guests Swizz Beatz, Jeremih, PnB Rock, and Miguel. ~ Andy Kellman & Neil Z. Yeung