Meek Mill hasn’t been on a tour since 2017, thanks to the machinations of the criminal justice system and one judge in Philadelphia who Meek and his attorneys say held a personal grudge against him throughout his case. But it’s safe to say, I think, that performing on stage is like riding a bike — at least, that’s how it looked Thursday night at the Hollywood Palladium for the Los Angeles stop of Meek’s Motivation Tour. The Championships rapper hasn’t lost a step or his flair for dramatic guest reveals and fiery, charismatic sets that take full advantage of his powerful voice and preference for thunderous, driving beats.
Some of that continued onstage comfort undoubtedly comes from Meek’s willingness to give the fans what they want. Usually, that means “play the hits,” but in his case, it means “play ‘Dreams And Nightmares (Intro).’” It’s like “Seven Nation Army” at a ball game, or maybe “We Will Rock You.” You will hear this song at a Meek Mill show and you will be forced, by shared energy or sense of obligation or just plain enjoyment of the moment, to turn up. It’s predictable, but only in the sense that Rocky — or Adonis, now — will win the final fight of the film. “Dreams And Nightmares” has become Meek’s unofficial theme song and it hits just as hard every time.
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But Meek also knows that you can’t just live off the fan favorites. You have to get those out of the way early and get to the other fun stuff so you can create a new set of favorites. Thursday night, he definitely led off with the predictable hit, but that only warmed up the crowd for him to launch into the triumphant comeback material from Championships. “Uptown Vibes” and “What’s Free,” received tremendous reactions and PNB Rock and newcomer Melii were welcome additions to the proceedings on their respective jams (“Dangerous” for PNB and “Wit The Sh*ts (W.T.S.)” for Melii).
Of course, the biggest crowd pops were reserved for the appearances of three other guest stars. One, LA hometown hero Nipsey Hussle, doesn’t have a song with his host, but the pair share a label home, Atlantic Records, as well as a rugged, no-nonsense business ethos rooted in their similar upbringings on the streets of their respective home cities. The crowd improbably livened up when Nipsey appeared, but when Nipsey brought a guest of his own in the form of Compton’s YG, with whom he ripped through a scintillating rendition of “Last Time That I Checc’d.”
However excited the audience got when the two local legends took their bow, they practically turned the entire place upside as Drake sauntered onstage to deliver his verse from his and Meek’s Championships reunion, “Going Bad.” Looking around, not one person in the building wasn’t holding a phone, doing their best to get clean footage to prove to their friends and family that they were there when it happened. Even my own shot — for work purposes, I promise — is filled with other folks’ screens in the bottom third, which just goes to show how hard people were trying to get their shots over their neighbors.