Less than 18 hours after he was released from a Pennsylvania state prison last month, Meek Mill sat down with Dateline NBC for his first extensive interview as a newly freed man. The special, titled Dreams and Nightmares: The Meek Mill Story, focused on the rapper’s highly publicized legal battle, the nationwide support he’s received, and how his controversial sentencing fueled calls for criminal justice reform.
“Have you slept since you got out of prison?” Lester Holt asked Mill during the interview.
“No, I haven’t slept one minute since I’ve been out of prison. It’s actually like a culture shock, coming from a small cell back into the real world,” Meek replied. “[…] It felt like a dream come true, to exit that way and get right back to life so quick. It was fast for me. It was overwhelming, but it was nothing but love and support, and I took it.”
In November 2017, Judge Genece Brinkley sentenced Meek to two to four years in prison for a probation violations stemming from a decade-old gun and drug conviction. Dateline explored the controversy surrounding Meek’s sentencing, including Brinkley’s alleged misconduct as well as the shady history of retired officer Reggie Graham, the sole witness to testify in the rapper’s 2008 trial.
The special also included interviews with some of Meek’s most vocal supporters, including family members, Questlove, and 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin, who was one of the first people to greet Meek after his release on bail.
But despite the fact that he’s no longer behind bars, the Dreamchasers artist told Holt that he doesn’t feel free.
“I ain’t feel free since I caught this case at the age of 19. [I’m] 30 now,” he told Holt. “Me, I just pray. I believe God is my first lawyer; I’ve always believed that. I don’t feel free at all.”
When asked why he thought his case received so much attention, Meek acknowledged that his legal battle represented something that was much bigger than him.
“This is the same thing that thousands of other minorities are going through on a daily basis; they just don’t have the platform for anybody to speak on their behalf,” he said. “Now they do. At this point, I feel like I’m a sacrifice for a better cause […] I feel like god put me in a position to be the voice of the voiceless […] Let’s retire the #FreeMeekMill hashtag and make it hashtag #JusticeReform.”
You can check out clips of the Dateline special, which which aired on Meek’s 31st birthday Sunday, below.