Meek Mill has responded to a dramatic week of civil unrest in Philadelphia and across the nation by releasing a passionate new protest song called “Otherside of America.”
The Philadelphia rapper’s hard-hitting salvo does not directly address the protests against police brutality spurred by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
But the song — which opens with a clip from a Donald Trump speech in which he asks African Americans voters “What do you have to lose?” — does chronicle Mill’s experiences as an endangered black man, entangled in the criminal justice system as he grew up on the streets of Philadelphia.
“We was starvin’ for a thousands nights,” he raps, with typical rat-a-tat urgency, on the track, created with producers Butter Beans and Shroom. “Livin’ like we tryin’ to die tonight.”
Public Enemy rapper Chuck D. famously referred to rap as “the black CNN,” issuing reports from the African American community not commonly heard or seen on cable news channels.
Mill opens the new song by announcing that he’s “reporting live from the other side of America.”
The story that he then tells — beginning when he “was just a shorty / then I started spittin’ godly, and they said ‘record me’” takes him through his time in and out of jail while rising to hip-hop stardom.
That 12-year odyssey began with an arrest in South Philadelphia on a gun and drug charge in 2007 and finally ended last August with Mill pleading guilty to a misdemeanor while all other charges were dropped.
“Otherside of America” ends with a clip of Mill, who now works as an advocate for criminal justice reform with the Reform Alliance, being interviewed on CNN in 2018 by political commentator and host Michael Smerconish.
In the interview, Mill says: “I always dreamed to be on CNN to be able to express myself and speak for the voiceless young men of America. The first step I would say: I grew up in America in a ruthless neighborhood where we are not protected by police, we grew up in ruthless environments, we grew up around murder, you see murder, you see seven people die a week.”
In such circumstances, “I think you would probably carry a gun yourself,” Mill says. “Would you?”
“Yeah,” Smerconish replies. “I probably would.”