Rapper Meek Mill dropped a new song, “Stay Woke” (featuring Miguel), late Sunday after premiering it on the BET Awards with a fiery performance that brutally depicted police violence against the black community.
The rapper, who spent several months in prison due on a controversially heavy sentence for parole violation, wore a hoodie bearing a drawing of rapper XXXTentacion, who was murdered in Florida last week. The setting for his BET performance was an elaborate inner-city scene themed around Meek’s hometown of Philadelphia. Happy scenes of kids playing football and jumping rope are disrupted as white police charge in, arresting teenagers; a gunshot rings out and one of the children falls dead as her mother wails. Later, a policeman drapes an American flag over the child’s body. At the song’s end, Mill accompanied by the arrested figures from earlier in the segment, this time wearing orange prison togs and carrying jail-cell doors.
The song opens with a quote from Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s 1982 anthem “The Message” and continues with a verse that sums up the entire song:
“We scream, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ but we still toting ladders
Watching our own brothers trying to get at us
Dreams get shattered when a scene full of crackers
And they charge you with some shit you ain’t do
You like what happen
We go get lawyers to say shit, we don’t know how to talk
They told us to hate each other before we learn how to walk.”
Mill also alludes to his own incarceration later in the song, rapping:
“You gotta feel me, feel like the system trying to kill me
Got arrested and the charges F1 for popping wheelies, stay woke”
Last March, Mill was arrested in March at St. Louis International Airport and charged with misdemeanor assault after an altercation with two airport employees. In August, he was stopped for reckless endangerment while driving his motorcycle in New York City (hence the “wheelie” reference).
The rapper is free on bond while he appeals a two-year sentence for probation violation from an old conviction for drug and weapons charges. In November he was sentenced to two to four years in prison for violating his probation in a controversially heavy decision that rallied multiple celebrities, with Rev. Al Sharpton, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and even Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney all visiting the rapper in prison. Jay-Z wrote an op-ed in the New York Times last November in which he said, ““What’s happening to Meek Mill is just one example of how our criminal justice system entraps and harasses hundreds of thousands of black people every day.”
Mill was released in May and was taken by helicopter directly to a Philadelphia 76ers playoff game by the team’s owner.