Meek Mill’s “Wins & Losses” is an appropriately titled journey from the bottom to the top.
The first type of win on the album is the celebratory win. Meek made it out of the projects and that’s the biggest win of all. To that end, “Wins & Losses”, “F**k That Check Up”, “1942 Flows” and “Glow Up” are unabashed celebrations of success. Of the four of them “Glow Up” is probably the best. It’s the song that bubbles with the most infectious joy. It makes you relate to Meek’s struggle and want to share in his success.
There are other wins, but they’re tinged with something more than outright jubilation. “Ball Player” and “Never Lose” have plenty of overlap with other songs on the album, but ultimately they remain on the fence. They’re not upbeat enough to be a full-on celebration of winning and they don’t catalog the losses like other tracks do.
Several of the “winning” tracks on the album fail to reach past middling. These songs rehash the basic narrative of the album (rags to riches) without adding anything new. Actually, some of these tracks detract from the album’s impact with repetitious lines and cookie-cutter bars. On “1942 Flows” Meek raps, “Started off poor with plans to earn more/Now we own stores and f**k the baddest whores.” I actually had to Google the line to make sure I hadn’t heard it somewhere else.
Aside from tracks with the theme of winning, there are tracks that actually win by being good. Unsurprisingly most of these tracks fall into the “losses” column. A notable exception is “Connect the Dots.” This one is a banger, plain and simple. Pampitrou provides the beat. Meek, Rozay and Yo Gotti do everything else. Gotti’s verse almost works as a thesis for the album. He says, “Let’s talk about the trap, let’s talk about the streets/You looked up to Jordan, we looked up to Meech.”
Meek is at his best when he’s at his most heartfelt. On “We Ball”, Meek and Young Thug reminiscence about those that they’ve lost and vow to ball for them. It’s not a new concept but, unlike the winning songs which also reuse old formulas, it feels sincere.
“Heavy Hearts”, “Made it from Nothing” and “Price” are three more songs which cover the darker sides of Meek’s past. None of them are his finest song, but they are passable.
On “These Scars” Meek shines next to Guordan Banks’s soulful vocals and over Pampitrou’s beat. The two best songs on “Wins & Losses” were produced by Pampitrou and come one after the other in the middle of the album.
“Young Black America” was a nice surprise. The song is Meek’s attempt at conscious rap and it’s successful. Over a sample of a sample (Jay-Z’s “Momma Love Me”) Meek delivers thoughtful rhymes about the plight of young Black folks who grew up like him. It’s a great performance, a meaningful performance. More of that kind of content from Meek, more discussion of what the “losses” do to the community will make for a more powerful Meek album.
I guess it’s worth mentioning that there are a few other losses on the album. Those are any of the 3 love songs. They’re just bad. “Open” is especially ill-conceived.
“Wins & Losses”
If you only listen to the “wins” on the album you might walk away with the wrong idea. You might think the album is nothing more than braggadocio and ballin’ with little to be said otherwise. The “losses”, however, tell a different story. The impact of the streets on Meek’s life create a compelling narrative, an authentic story that deserves to be told.
Unfortunately the losses don’t do enough to balance out the wins. As much heartfelt Meek as there is on the album, there’s still a lot of celebratory Meek that fails to spark interest. It’s great that Meek wants to celebrate his success, but the songs gotta hit, and more often than not the wins don’t quite get there.
There’s proof on the album that the wins can be bangers though, so it will just be a matter of time before Meek puts it all together. For now he’s a couple losses short.