December 12, 2019
Philly rapper and criminal justice activist Meek Mill released the most complete album of his career, "Championships," last fall, featuring some of his all-time best songwriting.
This week, Mill and Philly-area producer Don Cannon sat down with popular music podcast "Song Exploder" to break down one of the album's more in-depth tracks, "Trauma," and everything that went into it.
Here's the song, in case you haven't heard it:
According to Mill and Cannon, the song actually has decade-old roots to Mill's earliest days, when he was rapping in North Philly, and was born in the first few days after Mill was released from prison:
"MM: When I got out of prison, I wanted to explain my mind frame, where I come from. Being locked in a cell 23 hours a day, that can do something to you mentally.
DC: It was 2018, and I had a heads up he was going to be released from jail, so I wanted to think, like, 'How can I jump in with Meek and make something feel exciting, classic, and mean something to the culture? How can we make a stance?' We're both from Philadelphia, so we both have similar fights, similar battles.
The minute he got out, I reached out to him. He had a lot of things going on, just getting out. I just said, 'Yo, I've got something for you that's going to explain everything.' ... This beat was a lot more of a thinking process, than it was just me sitting down and making a beat. If you watch some of Meek's earlier freestyle videos, he actually freestyled on this Mobb Deep record called "Get Away".
MM: Mobb Deep was rappers that inspired me. I actually rapped off that beat on my first mixtape. I burned 50 CDs at Office Max and just passed them out, and that's how I started to get my buzz.
DC: It was one of his best freestyles, in my opinion. So I did a little research on it, I had that in the back of my mind like, 'Man, maybe I should tap into the original sample of the Mobb Deep record.' It showed the progression of when he started, to now."
Here's a recording of Mill's original song over the original Mobb Deep beat, from his days as a member of the Bloodhoundz rap group:
Elsewhere in the episode, Cannon dove deeper into the technical side of his sampling process, and Mill discussed his writing process, including the way he worked real-life experiences from being in prison into the song's lyrics. The whole episode is worth your time. You can listen below:
Mill, who was on probation for more than a decade after being arrested in 2007, most recently spent six months in prison from November 2017 to April 2018 for violating probation. This past August, he pleaded guilty to a gun charge and had the rest of his charges were dropped.