"I used to pray for times like this, to rhyme like this/so I had to grind like that to shine like this," raps Philadelphia's own Meek Mill on "Dreams & Nightmares (Intro)." In the past week, the 2012 album cut has gone from cult favorite to the soundtrack to the Philadelphia Eagles' Super Bowl run—the perfect fit for a scrappy team that's gone further than anyone expected.
"It really lifted my spirit to hear the team rally around my songs because that's why I make music—to inspire others and bring people together," the rapper said in a statement released to B/R and NBCSports Philadelphia. "The Eagles have also motivated me with the way they've overcome tough situations and injuries to succeed this year."
Overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds—a central theme of the song—is all too relevant for Meek Mill. The rapper, born Robert Williams, won't be able to attend the game, or even meet with the team before it heads to Minnesota.
He's currently serving two to four years for probation violations at the Chester State Correctional Institution, a medium-security men's prison just outside Philadelphia. (Warning: Video contains NSFW language.)
His case has garnered national attention from fans and objective observers alike, not only because of his popularity as an artist but also because of perceived injustice in his case. After serving eight months in jail for a 2008 firearm and drug possession conviction and spending almost a decade on probation, his current stint behind bars comes following two 2017 arrests: a fight in a St. Louis airport and reckless driving (at a music video shoot) in New York. Neither incident resulted in formal charges, and at his hearing, neither the prosecutors nor the probation officer recommended prison time.
Despite the case for his freedom, the judge—who is currently under federal investigation, according to Meek Mill's lawyers—denied the rapper bail and rejected their initial appeal. A second request for bail, this time to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, was also denied.
As the Eagles are preparing to take on the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, the rapper is preparing to take his case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. That filing, which his lawyers are planning within the next few weeks, will request: 1) that the rapper receive bail; 2) that the judge, Genece Brinkley, be removed from the case; and 3) that his sentence be overturned.
"We shouldn't be flooding jails because of probation technicalities," Meek's lawyer, Joe Tacopina, told B/R. "In Philadelphia, people don't even get two to four years for robbery, and he's in there for a non-crime. It's just ridiculous."
The prison where Meek is incarcerated is currently operating at 105 percent capacity, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
The defense team is hoping that Larry Krasner, the newly elected Philadelphia district attorney, will take a hard look at their next Supreme Court motion. “He ran on a platform of challenging abuses within the probation system in Philadelphia,” said Tacopina.
None of that, though, will be enough to allow Meek to watch his team fight for a championship while fueled by his music. Tacopina isn't even certain he'll be able to watch the game. "We think they'll be able to watch the Super Bowl, especially because the jail's in Philadelphia," he said. "But if not, he'll call me every five minutes and I'll give him a play-by-play."
Despite his situation, Meek appears to be enjoying the Eagles' success. "I'm so proud of my Eagles for making the Super Bowl and representing the city of Philadelphia. … I'm confident my guys are going to beat the Patriots and bring the Super Bowl trophy to Philly."