Meek Mill said he lived a nightmare as he dreamed of being free as he sat in a jail cell for five months.
In his first post-prison interview the Dreams and Nightmare rapper sat down for an exclusive interview with NBC’s Lester Holt and opened up about being the new face of a movement to shed light on a flawed criminal justice system that has him still tethered to a criminal case that has haunted him since he was 19 years old.
“Do you feel truly free,” Holt asked.
“No I don’t feel free,” Mill said. “I ain’t feel free since I caught this case at the age of 19. I’m 30 now.” Mill turned 31 on Sunday.
Mill, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, was sentenced to two to four years in prison last November for a technical parole violation. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted his release and he’s still processing his new freedom.
“Have you slept since you got out of prison?” Holt asked Mill.
“No, I haven’t slept one minute since I’ve been out of prison,” the rapper replied. “It’s actually, like, a culture shock, comin’ from a small cell back into the real world.”
“It don’t even feel real,” he told Holt.
“It felt like a dream come true just to exit that way and get back to life so quick. It was fast for me. It was overwhelming but it was nothing but love and support,” he said.
Mill was sentenced to two to four years and thrown into prison for what some call petty offenses—popping a wheelie on a NYC street and a fight, both of those charges were dropped. His friend Michael Rubin, co-owners of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, who was with him at court vowed to help Mill beat this case.
Rubin said: “Put bad people in prison, murderers in prison but not someone in prison for probation violation,” he told Holt.
When Rubin got the call that Mill was being released he called him and exclaimed, “I’m picking you up in the heli!” And he did pick him up in a helicopter.
Mill was convicted in 2008 on drug and gun charges and served eight months on those charges. But the issue is the enormous amount of probation judge Genece Brinkley gave the rapper eight years of probation. He had to submit to random drug tests, submit travel plans and even get permission to visit his mom across the Philadelphia bridge in New Jersey or drop his son off at school. Any misstep would qualify as a technical violation.
Meek Mill’s imprisonment sparked a national rallying cry for criminal justice reform with artists like Jay-Z and Rick Ross taking up the cause to free the popular rapper.
Jay-Z and Rubin bankrolled a private investigator who found that in Mill’s original case there was only one witness—a dirty cop named Reggie Graham who served in Philadephia narcotics unit and known to fabricate evidence.
That new information was presented to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the court granted him bail. But his charges still stand and the court denied the request to remove Judge Brinkley from the case. Mill remains under her supervision and she has set a date in June to hear more evidence.
“How do you explain why your case has become so important?” Holt asks
“I was a public figure and I inspire. A lot of people don’t know the history that I inspire a lot of these young children.”
Meek is ready to rise to the responsibility of fighting for criminal justice reform.
“I had eight years of probation that turned to 16 years of probation,” Mill said. “Something is not working.”
“I’m still doing time for that case,” he said.
Now he’s making a case for other people caught up in the system.
“I feel like God put me in a position to be the voice for the voiceless,” he said.
“At this point it’s not all about me having a light to shine on my situation. It’s about thousands of others that’s caught up in that situation how can we fix a young black man going to jail for frivolous reasons and other young children growing up without fathers in their home and the cycle continue and young black men going to prison.
“Let’s continue. Let’s retire the Meek Mill hashtag and make it hashtag justice reform.”