Philadelphia Eagles Show Brotherly Love For Meek Mill Ahead of Super Bowl

Feb 4, 2018
Originally published on April 24, 2018 1:13 pm

The Philadelphia Eagles are playing in the Super Bowl for the first time in 13 years this weekend. Though the team has made two appearances at the big game in the past, the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl, making them the underdogs heading into Sunday's match-up against the five-time championed New England Patriots. So for their introduction music into the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the Eagles have chosen to play a hip-hop underdog's anthem, "Dreams and Nightmares (Intro)" by Philly rapper Meek Mill.

The weight of this song selection is not lost on rap fans. Meek Mill, a high profile, platinum-selling rapper, has been in prison for the last three months for violating parole connected with a crime he committed over a decade ago. In the time he's been behind bars, Meek's case has garnered plenty of media attention. The artist's support system of music industry names and Philadelphia figureheads are vocal and steadfast in the belief that Meek should not remain in jail over and the city of Philadelphia has rallied behind the 30-year-old rapper --- literally.

Michel Martin speaks with NPR Music's Rodney Carmichael about the significance on the Eagle's song choice and how Meek's ongoing case has become a flash point in the debate around criminal justice reform.

Web editor Sidney Madden contributed to this story. Listen to the entire interview at the audio link.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Finally today, it's Super Bowl Sunday. You thought we forgot, didn't you? Of course we didn't. We were just trying to figure out what else there was to say after weeks of pre-Super Bowl hype. So then we thought, what about the walk-on music when the respective teams, the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, take the field? Pretty different as NPR's hip-hop writer Rodney Carmichael reports. There's a story behind the Eagles' choice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES")

MEEK MILL: Ain't this what they been waiting for?

RODNEY CARMICHAEL, BYLINE: The Philadelphia Eagles for the Super Bowl this year have chosen as their introductory song "Dreams And Nightmares" by local Philly rapper Meek Mill.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES")

MEEK MILL: (Rapping) I used to pray for times like this to rhyme like this. So I had to grind like that to shine like this. And the matter of time I spent on some locked-up - in the back of the paddy wagon, cuffs locked on wrists.

CARMICHAEL: So the song starts with this really barebones piano track. You hear strings come in. And you hear Meek laying out, you know, his story, his narrative. It's really explicit. It's real. It's a real story. It's his real story from rags to riches, his rise in the rap industry and the dreams and nightmares, so to speak, that have come from that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES")

MEEK MILL: (Rapping) I go and get it regardless, draw like I'm an artist. No crawling, went straight to walking with foreigns in my garages.

CARMICHAEL: Then the track starts to build. It switches, and the bass drops. And Meek's own delivery starts to build into this really explosion.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES")

MEEK MILL: (Rapping) Flexing on these - I'm like Popeye on his spinach. Double-M, yeah that's my team. Rozay the captain. I'm the lieutenant. I'm the type to count a million cash then grind like I'm broke. That Lambo, my new - she'll ride like my Ghost.

CARMICHAEL: Let me tell you a little bit about Meek Mill. This is a rapper. He's been around for a good decade now, I guess you could say. Again, he's from the streets of North Philly. And he rose from the ranks of being kind of like this grimey freestyle rapper to being a major success story, one of the biggest rappers in the game. But he also is a rapper who is plagued by his legal woes in the past.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES")

MEEK MILL: (Rapping) Back home, that young - be wilding. We young - and we mobbing like Batman and we're Robin.

CARMICHAEL: So Meek Mill violated his probation from a 2007 gun-and-drug case. Apparently he was still in his teens when he got stopped by the police and had a gun on him. And it's really one of several minor run-ins he's had with the law over the years, including a fistfight at a St. Louis airport, although the charges were dropped, and a reckless endangerment charge for driving his dirt bike in New York City. His probation judge sentenced him to two-to-four years in prison for those probation violations last year. This case has really become kind of a lightning rod in this discussion that's been going on for years and continuing to go on around his case around sentencing laws and mass incarceration.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES")

MEEK MILL: (Rapping) Had me feeling like that dope boy when he first touched that - I'm gone.

CARMICHAEL: It says a lot that the Philadelphia Eagles are getting behind Meek Mill in such a public way, especially when you think about the protests Colin Kaepernick started and the way the NFL and the nation have really responded to those. In a sense, Kaepernick's protests were meant to draw attention to injustices like harsh sentencing that, you know, often leaves black men like Meek Mill caught up in this revolving cycle of prison and probation. So for the Eagles to pick this song shows a solidarity for a hometown guy who definitely has his back up against the wall.

(SOUNDBITE OF CARL ORFF'S "INTRO TO CARMINA BURANA")

CARMICHAEL: Of course, the Patriots have their own music scoring their grand entrance onto the field on Sunday. The song is called "Intro To Carmina Burana."

(SOUNDBITE OF CARL ORFF'S "INTRO TO CARMINA BURANA")

CARMICHAEL: It's a very popular, very familiar-sounding dramatic classical piece that you hear a lot in movies and TV commercials. And they're following that one up with "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CRAZY TRAIN")

OZZY OSBOURNE: All aboard (laughter).

CARMICHAEL: So yes, pretty drastic contrast.

MARTIN: That was NPR's Rodney Carmichael.

(SOUNDBITE OF OZZY OSBOURNE'S "CRAZY TRAIN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.