Last May, hip-hop ascendant Meek Mill released Dreamchasers 2, the most downloaded mixtape of all-time and a thunderous precursor to this Maybach Music Group dominated summer we’re experiencing. In “Amen” – the only track from the mixtape to penetrate radio airwaves – Meek compares his dutiful affinity for Sundays at Miami’s Club LIV (where he is the featured performer tonight) to a churchgoer’s adherence to the Sabbath. The religious imagery continues: Meek blesses the “bad b****** in the building” with a resounding “Amen!”, channels his Bawse, Rick Ross, by noting the Holy Ghost’s presence in his vehicle, and laments the Devil’s temptation. In effect, he eschews the traditional Litany of the Saints in favor of a litany of sins, much to the chagrin of Rev. Jomo K. Johnson, a pastor hailing from Meek’s hometown of Philadelphia who believes the song to be blasphemous.
At the fabled May 2nd MMG press conference, Warner Music CEO Lyor Cohen famously declared that “Rick [Ross] has the biggest office in the world. The streets.” One would assume Ross’s dominion over the streets extends to his labelmates (with the probable exception of Omarion), which is why negative critiques of “Amen” (or any song from Meek’s extensive catalogue) weren’t likely to resonate in the hood. However, in the name of righteousness, Rev. Johnson implored his city, the so-called City of Brotherly Love, to boycott Meek in the weeks leading up to the August 28th release of his debut album, Dreams and Nightmares: “As a hip-hop fan, I want to encourage every rap fan in Philadelphia who is a believer in Jesus Christ, to boycott Meek Mill until he acknowledges this blatant disrespect.” Also: “And being resident of North Philadelphia and pastor, I revoke Meek’s ‘hood pass’ until this happens.” OH NO HE DIDN’T.
As Philadelphians rushed to take sides in the most heated controversy since TO/McNabb, Meek and the Rev. Johnson put their cheesesteaks down and hashed out some differences on Philly’s Hot 107.9. A scornful Meek punched first: “This looking like you trying to get famous, or you need some attention, because you could have came to me and said anything you wanted to.” Initially, I shared Meek’s skepticism toward the Rev. Johnson’s motives. I mean, the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff said some unbecoming stuff back in the day and he didn’t call them out! According to Meek, he “mighta even remixed the song with Kirk Franklin”, a prominent gospel artist, had Rev. Johnson expressed his concerns privately. They continued to trade barbs – basically, Meek contended that his philanthropic efforts render the crude lyrics in tracks like “Amen” meaningless; Rev. Johnson reasoned that these vulgarities sully the minds of impressionable listeners. The conversation devolved into Sabermetrics for Dummies when Meek, not exactly a master debater, brought forth an anonymously-sourced quantitative analysis: “Let’s do the statistics on rappers and pastors with rape. Zero percent rappers ever came to the light of raping a child. Pastors, it’s no match. What you talkin’ about? Are you protesting Eddie Long?” Host Q-Deezy swiftly ended the proceedings, and may or may not have compared the Meek-Rev. Johnson squabble to Lincoln-Douglas and/or Bohr-Einstein. Not your grandfather’s debate!
But back to the crux of the issue: Is “Amen” blasphemous? It depends. If Meek is intimating that the level of devotion required to do LIV on Sundays can only be matched by the deep-seated piety of a congregant, then no. However, the song could represent something more ominous – Meek actively worshipping the strip club experience, in which case Rev. Johnson may have a point. When Meek sashays into a club, does he, like, pause to genuflect, pray, and look to attain canonization and/or martyrdom? Let’s examine the empirical evidence.
Disclaimer: When YouTube user streetzmedia labeled Pacman Jones and Darnell Dockett “NFL’s Top Players”, he/she presumably utilized Urban Dictionary’s definition of “player”.
Pacman’s strip club prowess is well-documented – he comprised the rainmaking vanguard with Fat Joe and Colbie Caillat – and it is important to note that if anyone led a sect relating to the adoration of establishments that regularly promote “Showtime Saturdays”, it would certainly be him. The first minute of this video is exactly what you’d expect: flaming champagne bottles, gratuitous shots of a yellow Ferrari, amateur shawtys laboring for a dollar, some guy defiantly chewing his money. Meek, inexplicably going by Meek “Millz” here, finally shows up at 1:07 exuding that hands-in-his-pockets vibe, adorned with 3 Chainz, one of which is a cross! Does Meek Millz look like he’s prepping for a religious service? I can’t really tell, but I can tell you that Pacman is “street approved”, if his gray tee is to be trusted. For fun: try to guess what the stripe-shirted man posing with Pacman (2:04) says. My guess: an expletive-laden adaptation of DJ Khaled’s proverb-of-choice, “We The Best!” Meek caps off his Showtime Saturday in the most orthodox of ways – sipping straight from the bottle (potentially an “Amen”-ized communion practice, but that’s probably a reach). VERDICT: INCONCLUSIVE.
Meek Mill ft Drake – Amen (Official Music Video)
I know it’s just an advertisement, but doesn’t the Dreams and Nightmares poster with Meek in full brooding-contemplation mode seem kinda suspicious? He’s got that pseudo-regret portraiture down to a science – and a spiffy glove! “Amen’s” official music video begins in an RV park (0:06), seemingly after a night of worship/Ciroc mass consumption. There’s some murky bathtub action…and not much else, at least until the flashbacks begin, allowing the viewer to piece together the mystery of “last night” a la The Hangover or Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? My favorite part, by far, is Drake – looking like Andy Roddick – reappropriating Rocky Balboa’s signature dash up the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s steps (1:53). Sadly, while the word “churrrrch” is used early and often, no scenes in an actual church occur. Silver lining: Waka Flocka can be found dangling a Pink Panther pendant at 2:46. Meek delivers the final verse at Club LIV, insouciantly musing on the temptresses that wobbledy-wobble for his viewing pleasure. It doesn’t sound like prayer – sorry, Rev. Johnson. VERDICT: BLESSED ARE THE MEEK.