Album of the Month: Meekz ‘Respect The Come Up (mixtape)’
A lean, muscular debut mixtape from an Olympic-level lyricist
‘Say Less’ – a hood mantra that prioritises quality over quantity – is one that enigmatic Manchester rapper Meekz abides by. It’s also the title to the opening track of his debut mixtape ‘Respect The Come Up’. Since emerging in 2019, he’s got only a precious handful of freestyles and singles to his name and has dropped one concise, pain-fuelled EP – 2020’s ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop’. So his surprise verse on Dave’s ‘In The Fire’ last year, amongst UK rap’s established heavyweight champions, felt like a gifted Olympic boxer switching to the pro ranks and then competing for a world title in his first bout. It emphasised his position as a real rapper’s rapper, while introducing his gravelly cadence and powerful tone to a more casual, mainstream audience.
Fans of the sphere of UK rap that Meekz occupies place huge importance on authenticity, and for what it’s worth, he’s lived the turbulent life he raps about and has been incarcerated numerous times because of it. It was while in jail in 2018 that he wrote himself an imaginary cheque for £100,000 from a major record label, his way of speaking things into existence and manifesting a new path. “They’re tryna’ offer brick money Uncs, and that’s banter,” he raps on ‘Say Less’, aware of the irony that his verses are now worth as much to music execs as kilos of coke to dealers.
At just 10 tracks long, ‘Respect The Come Up’ is a lean, muscular listen. It boasts just two guest features. That being said, they’re notable ones. The aforementioned Dave jumps on ‘Fresh Out The Bank’ — the closest thing on the project to a club banger, revealing Meekz’s previously unknown flair for writing a playful earworm of a hook — while commercial drill prince Central Cee adds a verse to ‘Don’t Like Drill’. In the past Meekz has been miscategorised as a drill artist and it’s something that he pokes fun at here over the song’s ricocheting percussion. “I don’t like drill much, but I real life catch me a body, I do tracks for a hobby,” he boasts menacingly. The caveat of the ‘Say Less’ mantra is that the things you do say are meaningful.
And it’s when Meekz drifts away from the familiar tropes of UK rap towards a more reflective headspace that the mixtape really excels. Titular track ‘Respect The Come Up’ captures this, his forceful delivery softening around his sombre realisation that “I can’t give my life to a phone”, referring to the trap line he’d use to conduct business in the past. It’s a sign of Meekz developing his artistry, subtly manipulating his rapping voice to convey the depth of emotion in his lyrics. ‘Hustlers Ambition’ is another highlight, with a rich, smoky saxophone line and plenty of OG wisdom that wouldn’t be out of place on Jay- Z’s ‘American Gangster’.
The dark, almost gothic sonics on 2020’s ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop’ were symbolic of the grief Meekz was carrying at the time, mourning the loss of close friends and fellow Manchester artists Dale Deezy and Tecca. On ‘Respect’ the atmosphere is brighter, its soundscapes reflecting a more hopeful future. Closing track ‘Instagram Caption’ sounds like a warm, Cali-bud induced daydream. “I didn’t spit to get paid for this. I did it all my life, shit, I was made for this,” he raps over the twinkling production, enjoying the peace that comes with doing what you know you’re meant to do.