Bad things tend to happen on Friday the 13th, but Meek Mill didn’t let superstition stop him from doing a little good. Before Friday night’s stop at BB&T Pavilion in Camden, the halfway point of the “Legendary Nights” tour he’s co-headlining with Future, he stopped by the James G. Blaine School in Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion section, which he attended as a child, to donate a haul of backpacks and supplies to current students.
It’s one small action the North Philly native, 32, did to pay forward the good karma that’s come his way lately. Last month, his nearly 13-year legal saga came to a close, the Amazon-documented journey the rapper born Robert Rihmeek Williams has spun into a far-reaching campaign for criminal justice reform. Mill has gone from running the streets to having a street named after him. With that noise behind him, he can now focus on his day job: making more noise.
Megan Thee Stallion, one of 2019’s most charismatic young stars, kicked off the evening’s festivities in Camden, delighting dedicated “Hot Girl Summer” Hotties, several of whom she brought up on stage to showcase their core strength in impromptu twerk-offs. The prolific DJ and producer Mustard showed off behind the decks next, running through a crowd-pleasing karaoke medley of his innumerable radio smashes.
Mustard next provided support for Compton emcee YG, who kicked off his appearance with a video remembrance of fellow Angeleno Nipsey Hussle, murdered in March. The touching sequence gave way to a pugnaciously on-brand performance from the proudly combative rapper, including a screed against the 45th president and a truly surreal rendition of his current single, “Go Loko,” featuring a forlorn mariachi band and a sombrero someone dropped into his hands on a string from the rafters.
Two hours in, Mill finally materialized onstage, gassing up the pavilion and lawn areas both with the 2011 anthem “I’m a Boss,” confidently strutting solo in a Dream Chasers cap and glinting plaid jacket while projection screens applied trippy visual effects to his silhouette. Future made himself known with a quick “Stick Talk” before deferring again to the Philly kid, who couldn’t help but cheese-grin every time he cut the beat, allowing the audience to fill the silence with his bars (Phil Collins-sampling “Champions,” “Monster,” “Levels”).
Atlanta’s auto-tune king got his chance behind the wheel next, establishing a well-calibrated back-and-forth between the artists that seemed to please fans of both. Mixing recognizable bangers (“Wicked,” “Move That Dope,” “Same Damn Time”) and verses snipped from features (“Racks,” “New Level”), Future swapped out his signature computerized flow here and there for a grumbly live-action baritone.
While his tour mate showed out, this was really Mill’s night, as evidenced by the rabid response to early hits from his raw, rapid-fire mixtape days (“House Party,” “Rosé Red”). There was time for introspection, too, in the form of the heartfelt “1942 Flows” (“back when I was broke, they was cool with it / now every move I make I’m in the news with it”) and his tribute to Lil Snupe, the Louisiana rapper and Mill protégé who was killed in 2013.