There has been dissonance in the music community as fans and community members follow news of the incarceration of rapper Meek Mill. The 30-year-old rapper was recently sentenced to prison time after judge Genece Brinkley ruled that he violated his probation earlier this month. Salon.com wrote of judge Brinkley, “Brinkley has presided over Meek’s case since his initial conviction in 2008, for which he served eight months in prison. He was arrested twice this year, once for popping wheelies on a dirt bike and once for getting into a fight (those familiar with the case say he was actually trying to break it up). Both charges were either dropped or dismissed, but Brinkley sent him to prison anyway. If her ruling stands, he’ll serve substantially more time than he did for his original conviction.” Meek Mill’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, stated on the odd, alleged behavior of the judge, “When she requests he leaves his current management Roc Nation—which is one of the most important management companies in the world—and goes back to a local Philadelphia guy who has a spotted past because she had a personal relationship with him as manager, again, she’s doing something that a judge would never be doing, having a personal interest.”
There has been an outcry of support with #FreeMeekMill and #JustForMeek hashtags spreading throughout social media. A protest ensued in support of Meek Mill from the Philadelphia courthouse. Robert Williams incited JAY-Z, the head of Meek Mill’s management company, Roc Nation, to pen an essay in The New York Times about the connection between his artist’s experience with the justice system and other Black Americans’ experience with the justice system.
Moving away from the alleged misconduct of the young rapper’s judge, JAY-Z penned a broader essay, writing, “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. I saw this up close when I was growing up in Brooklyn during the 1970s and 1980s. Instead of a second chance, probation ends up being a landmine, with a random misstep bringing consequences greater than the crime. A person on probation can end up in jail over a technical violation like missing a curfew.”
JAY-Z wrote about Meek Mill’s prior criminal history, citing that Meek Mill was arrested when he was 19 years old and has remained on probation for most of his adult life, dodging what JAY-Z called a “landmine” of “technical” conditions the justice system puts on him and others. His essay continues, “The specifics of Meek’s case inspired me to write this. But it’s time we highlight the random ways people trapped in the criminal justice system are punished every day. The system treats them as a danger to society, consistently monitors and follows them for any minor infraction—with the goal of putting them back in prison. As of 2015, one-third of the 4.65 million Americans who were on some form of parole or probation were Black. Black people are sent to prison for probation and parole violations at much higher rates than white people.”
JAY-Z’s essay was brief and simplistically written. It seemed to make clear the paradoxes Black Americans face while navigating life on parole. He also mentioned the organization Color of Change, which is heading a petition to challenge the Philadelphia court system about this case.