Meek Mill- Heaven and Hell


Some niggas go to college, some niggas go to jail
Some make it into heaven, some make it into hell
Nobody want to lose, nobody want to fail
Nobody want to die, nobody want to kill
The things we do just to make it through
But nobody want to lose, nobody want to fail
Nobody want to die, we’re just tryna live our life

[Verse 1: Meek Mill]
Look, I got homies in the ground, skeleton and bones
And niggas doing life, they ain’t ever coming home
They said I wouldn’t make it or never see the throne
And my baby mama hate me cause she said I did her wrong
Cause I left to chase my dream, get it any means
I said that I’ll be back, she wasn’t listening to me
That back and forth arguing was getting in between
I said fuck them other niggas, I go get it with my team
If we all grind, we all shine, fuck a part time
I used to play the block early morning and dark time
Now it’s G5 flights, fuck a depart time
It was hard times, nigga now it’s our time
Just take a look at my life, rapping brought me back to life
Cause I was in them streets, my heart was cold as a pack of ice
Every night we strapping like we was in Iraq to fight
Cause niggas getting murdered for a block that do a stack a night
Woah, I got to make it home to my son
On them papers with a firm hold on his gun
Before I snitch they gotta burn a hole in my tongue
Give me a hundred years in a hole on the sun
In boiling water, in the world of no order
In the hood ain’t no loyalty, ain’t no world for your daughter
Ain’t no life for your brother, on the life of my mother
I’mma get the fam right, nigga you damn right


I choose my favorite songs depending on whats going on in life such as personal experiences.  In this new era Hip Hop Meek Mill is one of favorite rappers, mainly because I can relate to the things he raps about.  I grew up in Red Hook section of Brooklyn, NY in one of the toughest neighborhoods. I can relate to the lyrics because I chose to attend college.  I wanted something better for myself, but the majority of my friends I grew up with went to jail. Some of us make good decisions and some of us bad ones. Sometimes we do things because we feel we have no choice but to. This first line of the verse “Look, I got homies in the ground, skeleton and bones/And niggas doing life, they ain’t ever coming home” hit me hard because I lost a lot of friends to the gun or penitentiary. I use to witness first hand my friends not coming outside unless they had gun or being out all night in the streets trying to make money. I always say to myself that the world we live in is hell that’s why all these bad things be happening.

Occupation of Kuwait

“Over the years, the United States had aided the Iraqi Dictator when it served it purpose.”
Under Reagan and Bush administration the United States proved weapons and aid to Iraqi’s dictator Saddam Hussein in the war between Iran and Iraq. On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait but the United Stated didn’t like that and moved to force the withdrawal of Iraq occupation. Bush was allowed permission from the Saudi king to put about half of million troops in Saudi Arabia. On January 17, 1991, the United States with the authorization from Congress led a massive air attack on Iraq forcing them to retreat from Kuwait. As a kid I remember all the news coverage about this incident. To me, it seem that George H. W. Bush had personal vendetta against Saddam Hussein which carried on with his son George W. Bush.

Cold War

“That land over there is yours and you will go back one day because your cause is right and God is on your side.”


These were the words from President Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski to the Afghan fighters to rile them against Soviet Union communist government. This was a war of two world superpowers United States and USSR. The war called the Cold War because there was no fighting directly between the two superpowers. Instead they manipulated their allies and fought indirectly. For many years the Cold War had fostered economic, political, and military relationships around the entire world. The Cold War served as the defining component that bolster United States foreign policy.



“The laws have caught up with our conscience. What remains is to give life to the law.”


Even after the Supreme Court ended segregation in schools with Brown vs. Board of Education ruling there was still segregation in schools. Segregation was most evident in the school system The government had to use the military to enforce desegregation laws in schools. In 1984 the University of Texas only one black student belong to fraternity affiliated with the Interfraternity Council. Schools basically ignored the desegregation laws that were put in place. Things were so bad that the Supreme Court declared that segregated schools had the duty to eliminate racial discrimination and the courts required mandatory busing to integrate schools system that once had been segregated by law.


The origins of Hip Hop

The young activists that stayed in impoverished communities during the 1950’s through the 1970’s formed families within these same communities who gave birth to a new generation of thinking. The new generation was not only aware but upset by the travesties that their grandparents and parents had to endure during the civil rights and black power movements. The civil rights movement which originally gave the black community hope and a sense of belonging was short lived. While Blacks were no longer segregated, they were still left searching for social equality. In the 1960’s- 70’s, the feeling of disappointment turned into rage; they were tired of the inequality and thus formed the Black Power Movement.  The youth was unionizing to form equality in their community and make political statements against the system. From these two previous generations instilling awareness of social inequalities and the system not caring about you it is here where I’m truly convinced Hip-Hop was born. In 1989 Public Enemy did notrandomly just started rapping about the inequalities of the 911operating service. This was years of frustration in the making, and as absurd as it may have seen to the public that lived in above poverty levels. The youth of this time exactly understood what Public Enemy meant when they sang “911 is a joke in yo town”/. The Hip-Hop movement now gave the youth a voice to come together and form a community and for once feel part of a nurturing family. Using music as a coping mechanism is not a new concept, the civil rights had soul music, the black power movement had James Brown but Hip- Hop was different. Although it also centered on music, unlike the political movements of the past, hip-hop was more than one artist or genre of music representing and associating with your struggles. Hip-Hop was bigger, it became the way you dressed, spoke, danced a subculture the kids of the 1980s created to cope with their harsh reality. As Dj Herc eloquently sates, “Hip-Hop sayscome as you are it is not about me being better than you. It’s about you and me, connecting one on one” (Yang Intro). This “universal appeal” (Yang Intro) became the inner voice and the philosophy in which the youth of this time founded Hip- Hop.And offered Public Enemy and all the rappers of their time a platform to connect with the youth on a one on one basis on the inequalities they were both facing.

Public Enemy 911 Is a Joke

Public enemy’s “911 is a joke” comes rushing in to the listeners ears as the harsh reality that has been a culmination of the last 40 years in New York city history. Public Enemy’s hype man and charismatic sidekick, Flava Flav, uses a comedic delivery to relate a prominent issue many black communitiesfaced around the country; the lack of response to the needs of African Americans in placed 911 calls. This is evident in the first verse of the song:


“They only come and they come when they wanna, /theydon’t care cause they stay paid anyway”

The NYPD, FDNY, EMT are the first line of defense we have in society. New York City’s emergency respondent departments are supposed to encourage feelings of protection, equality and community. However, when your first and basic line of defense does not care about you, it opens your eyes to the reality that society does not care about you either. If your city, town and state do not care about you, no one else would. Feelings of exclusion and rejection were emotions the Black community was all too familiar with.


There were numerous socioeconomic conditions thatinjected doubt, exclusion and rejection in black communities.These contributed greatly to the formation of Hip-Hop and political rap groups like Public Enemy during the 80’s. “White flight” in the 1950’s and 1960’s played a huge role in entrapping minorities in urban neighborhoods in the South Bronx. Approximately “750,000 people have left in the past twenty years for middle class success in the suburbs” (Chang 17). In the 1960’s-1970’s the deindustrialization of the North East region of The United States wiped huge chunks of the labor force in the South Bronx “600,000 manufacturing jobs; 40 percent of the sector disappeared” (Chang 13). These historical events inspiredPublic Enemy and groups alike to pick up a microphone and break the silence on the injustices many Black communities faced.  These conditions were the most felt in the South Bronx which was one of the worst hit areas in New York City.

New York City’s affluent members wanted to transform Manhattan into the wealth capital of the world. The master plan put in place by Robert Moses was to construct a system of highways that directly connected the suburbs to Manhattan. Under “urban renewal” (11), the city was allowed to condemnentire neighborhoods that pushed out and displaced existing Black communities to settle in neighborhoods like the South Bronx and East New York Brooklyn; neighborhoods where public housing was economically available but employment was non-existent. Their white counterparts however, took place in what today is known as “white flight”, a term used for whiteswho were given the opportunity to purchase homes in thesuburbs of New York while many Blacks were left behind. In the New York area during the construction explosion initiated by Robert Moses in the 1950’s -60’s middle class whites received “sprawling, prefab, white picket-fence whites only Levittown suburbs” (12). Meanwhile working-class struggling families “got nine or more monotonous slabs of housing rising out of isolating, desolate, soon to be crime ridden “parks” (12). In the second verse we can see Flava Flav frustration with firstresponder’s reluctance to provide a competent service to the housing projects. Since the services are required by poor Blacks“every day they don’t never come correct/ You can ask my man right here with the broken neck/ He’s a witness to the job never being done”.   The poor people that live in these communities were condemned for their economic standing. The listener is left to ponder if the response times and reluctance would be presentif white picket fences and a white only neighborhoods were requesting these same services.

The deindustrialization of the “snow belt” (freeman 303) played a massive role in shaping the economic landscape of the North East, which was the dominant region in the nation in manufacturing jobs and economic power. However in the 1970’s-80’s, the economic power of the North East started todeteriorate and was now shifting to the “sun belt”, the Southern and Midwestern states (freeman 306) . Southern states with their ample cheap land and lax union stance created a win- win situation for corporations. Corporations started to move their jobs and headquarters to the south. In the 1970s and 1980s NewYork lost more than “800,000 residents” (freeman 304) and was hit “particularly hard, with the local unemployment rate hitting 12 percent in 1975 as many services disappeared and crimeincreased” (freeman 304). Public Enemy addresses the increasing crime rate and lack of governmental regulation or support in their song. Specifically, they ask their listeners to open their eyes to the diminishing resources available in their communities.

“Thinkin’ you are first when you really are tenth/you better wake up and smell the real flavor/

Cause 911 is a fake life saver”

Moreover, the song asks listeners to realize that in fact the government is not concerned with their well-being. In reality, agencies like 911 are all a farce.  In the above lines, we can see the groups increasing concern and frustration with the limited resources offered to Black communities. While many other racial groups were able to relocate in order to seek financial and social stability, the minority population was not afforded the same opportunities. Unfortunately, due to the downturn in the economy, minorities took the brunt of the socio-economic issues facing the North East at the time and in return received subpar services.

Chang chapters 1 & 3

New York City’s affluent members wanted to transform Manhattan into the wealth capital of the world. The master plan put in place by Robert Moses was to construct a system of highways that directly connected the suburbs to Manhattan. Under “urban renewal” (11), the city legally condemned entire neighborhoods that pushed out and displaced existing Black communities to settle in neighborhoods like the South Bronx, Queens Bridge and East New York Brooklyn; neighborhoods where public housing was economically available but employment was non-existent.  Their white counterparts however, took place in what is commonly known as “white flight”, a term used for whites who were given the opportunity to purchase homes in the suburbs of New York while many Blacks were left behind.  In the New York area during the construction explosion initiated by Robert Moses in the 1950’s -60’s middle class whites received “sprawling, prefab, white picket-fence whites only Levittown suburbs” (12). Meanwhile working-class struggling families “got nine or more monotonous slabs of housing rising out of isolating, desolate, soon to be crime ridden “parks” (12).  The poor people that live in these communities were condemned for their economic standing. The listener is left to ponder if the response times and reluctance would be present if white picket fences and a white only neighborhoods were requesting these same services.

Nas- Represent

The contrast between “If I Ruled the World”  and  “ A New York State of Mind” is the way in which wealth and happiness is attained. In one song, one must use violence in order to obtain wealth, In the other, Nas creates a perfect utopia. His ability to play with words to spark change and ignite imagination in his listeners is unmatched. Another song from his Illmatic album that continues to display his poetic delivery of a very intense subject matter (death) as a result of dealing drugs is“Represent”. In “Represent”, we are made aware that being a street criminal comes with a limited time on this planet. What is most intriguing to listener is the acceptance of death as a result.Nas accepts death and almost welcomes it. He accepts the fact that his lifestyle comes with death as a result. In all three songs,not being part of the system and being powerless are feelings the black community does not understand and cannot cope with, but is very ironic that death is a destination that drug dealers are ok with and welcome. “Straight up shit is real and any day could be your last in the jungle” this is a recurring theme we find in the“New York State of Mind” and “If I Ruled the World”.  Taking a step back and analyzing “Represent” the only possible reason why someone would jeopardize their life to gain “stacks” while selling drugs has to be that death cannot be as bad when you are already living in hell. It is in our human condition to desire wealth and people from the projects are no different. If acquiring great clothing “When I dress, it’s never nothing less than Guess”and money “No doubt, see my stacks are fat, this is what it’s about” your life is worth the risk. Like many other rappers have said: “Get rich or die trying”.

Nas- Black diamonds and pearls

Nas makes us aware of how violence strives in an environment that does not provide opportunity for advancement. In “If I Ruled the World”, the message is entirely different. Nas still questions social inequalitybut with a positive approach to introduce the idea of what it would be like, if Blacks and people of color lived in a utopiansociety in which they were all equal. “The way to be, paradise like relaxing black, Latino and Anglo-Saxon”.  This track starts to ignite the imagination of the listener of the possibility of “what if”. Nas empowers his listeners to believe that life can bethe same for people of color.   For starters, there will be justiceequality for people of color imprisoned for petty crimes. “Imagine smoking weed in the streets without cops harassin/Imagine going to court with no trial”. Per capita, TheUnited States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world. Majority of the prison population is composed of Hispanics and blacks. This legal equality would lead to more black men and women being a productive part of society, andfuture generations of minority families can be raised in complete households “So many years of depression make me vision/The better living, type of place to raise kids in”. The years of depression Nas refers to is the harsh reality that single parent households raise a vast majority of minority families. With the family structure complete and legal equality part of Black society, In “If I Ruled the World” a race can now focus to start accomplishing the American dream. With “Your people holding dough, no parole”, Blacks can now pursue opportunities in which housing and education are part of everyday life.  With wealth, people can now start vacationing . “ Feel the wind breeze in West Indies” and explore the world outside of the ghetto and expand their horizons. The Black community has spending power and is able to travel north in economic classes and is able to afford the better things life has to offer ‘’Imagine everybody flashing, fashion Designer clothes/Brand new whips ”.   A perfect society in which the color of your skin does not determine your economic status would be a society every person will love to be a part of. However, Nas brings the listener back to reality “ I thought I’d never see but reality struck/ Still nobody want a nigga having shit/ Better find out before your time’s out, what the fuck”. The cruel reality is utopia does not exist and the odds remain stacked against people of color.

Nas- New York State of Mind

One cannot reference Illmatic without paying close attention to the track, “New York State of Mind”. The track with the same title by Billy Joel is a romantic ballad where he expresses his love for New York City, despite visiting other beautiful cities in America. Joel fanaticizes with the beauty ofCentral Park, going to the opera on Broadway, and scenicbeautiful boat rides up the Hudson River.  This life of luxury and opportunity does not exist in Nas’ “New York State of Mind”.Nas’ “New York City State of Mind” refers to his hometown,Queensbridge, a housing project where blacks are trapped like rats in an environment plagued with drugs and violence “Full of black rats trapped”. Unlike Joel, there is no chance to get awayand visit paradise, In Queensbridge housing projects you do not dream of Central Park or boat rides up the Hudson, life was close to hell as Nas eloquently states. It was either survive, orthe housing project was going to consume you. “Life is parallel to Hell but I must maintain”. In Queensbridge the only thing you were escaping were stray bullets destined to kill you “Niggas be running through the block shootin”. The living conditions were mediocre for blacks’ only project buildings where the hallways had graffiti and the elevator smelled like urine.  Queensbridgewas an environment where everyone had to be thick-skinned. This housing project was not Frank Sinatra’s beautiful song“New York, New York” which states if you work hard you can make it in New York and you can make it anywhere.

With employment lacking in poor neighborhoods, leading a life of  crime had to be largely accredited to the deindustrialization of the “snow belt” (Freeman 303) this played a massive role in shaping the economic landscape of the North East, which was the dominant region in the nation in manufacturing jobs and economic power. However in the 1970’s-80’s, the economic power of the North East started to deteriorate and was now shifting to the “sun belt”, the Southern and Midwestern states (Freeman 306) . Southern states with their ample cheap land and lax union stance created a win- win situation for corporations. Corporations started to move their jobs and headquarters to the south.  In the 1970s and 1980s New York lost more than “800,000 residents” (Freeman 304) and was hit “particularly hard, with the local unemployment rate hitting 12 percent in 1975 as many services disappeared and crimeincreased” (Freeman 304). Nas addresses the increasing crime rate and lack of governmental regulation or support in his song. Specifically, he asks his listeners to open their eyes to the diminishing resources available in their communities.

“I keep some E&J, sitting bent up in the stairway/Or either on the corner betting Grants with the cee-lo champs/Laughing at baseheads trying to sell some broken amps”

These rap bars illustrate how the typical day was spent; with no real source of employment, present Queens Bridgeresidents led unproductive lifestyles.  In the above lines, we can see Nas’ increasing concern and frustration with the limited resources offered to Black communities. He writes, “Beyond the walls of intelligence, life is defined”. While whites were rewarded financial and social stability, meanwhile the blackpopulation, overlooked for the same opportunities. Unfortunately, due to the downturn in the economy, minorities took the brunt of the socio-economic issues facing the North East at the time and in return received subpar services. Without employment and descent living conditions present in everyday living, there was no viable option to make it out of Queens Bridge.”I think of crime when I’m in a New York state of mind”.The opportunities for advancement were very limited and young males had to resource to a life of crime to make it. “Be having dreams that I’m a gangsta”, this shows a sad reality that a community filled with intelligent and talented individuals whereyoung men only aspire to become gangsters to accomplishsuccess. This gangster persona led many to fall in love with the idea of making it to the top like Scarface’s Tony Montana. Tony Montana was an outlaw who defied the system and achieved the ultimate rags to riches story. This mentality was present in many living in Queensbridge, Nas also acknowledged this being part of who he was in his song. “I’m like Scarface sniffin cocaine,Holding an M-16”. Scarface was a fictional story but many followed this model and picked up a gun to sell drugs and fulfill their dream. For the black youth of Queenbridge there were no aspirations of attending universities or accomplishing degrees, for the young black youth the streets where the university, crimewas the degree, guns were the books and death/wealth/ prison determined the success of your career.