Meek Mill

The legal plight of Philly hip-hop icon Meek Mill, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, is chronicled in the five-part documentary, “Free Meek,” premiering on Amazon Prime Video. — (file photo)

The legal woes of Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill (born Robert Rihmeek Williams) have captivated the country for quite some time, and now the drama is chronicled in great detail in “Free Meek,” premiering Friday, Aug. 9, exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.

Setting up the five-episode limited documentary series, Amazon states in the opening frame, “Meek Mill is a hip-hop superstar but got his start as a battle rapper on the streets of Philly’s roughest neighborhood. At age 19, a violent encounter with law enforcement sends him to jail and ensnares him in the justice system. He will spend the next 11 years trying to break free of its grasp.”

“Free Meek” chronicles Meek Mill’s fight for exoneration in his legal case while exposing the broader flaws in the U.S. criminal justice system. As Meek, his family and his legal team fight for his freedom, cameras capture for birth of the #FREEMEEK movement, the launch of the REFORM Alliance and the re-investigation of a case filled with allegations of dirty cops, planted evidence and systemic corruption within a broken judicial system.

The opening episode, titled “Two Americas,” states, “This series contains re-enactments based on the recollections of witnesses as well as courtroom transcripts.”

Much of the story is told by Meek himself, who talked about his father, his childhood, growing up in Philly, the first time he saw someone get shot and killed, and how much he admires the “strong women” in his life — his mother and his grandmother.

After spending nearly five months incarcerated following a controversial sentence for violating probation, the Philadelphia rapper was released in April 2018. He then joined forces with hip-hop icon Jay-Z to collaborate on criminal justice reform.

The duo is part of the newly established Reform Alliance, a coalition of sports, entertainment and business industry leaders who collectively pledged $50 million with the goal of getting at least 1 million people out of jail over the next five years.

Members of the Reform Alliance include New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Philadelphia 76ers partner Michael Rubin, Brooklyn Nets co-owner Clara Wu Tsai and CNN host Van Jones, who will serve as the group’s CEO.

Jay-Z is a vital contributor to the first installment, of “Free Meek,”as well an executive producer of the documentary. “A lot of people don’t really understand what’s going on,” he said. “It’s not just two to four years. This guy got locked up at 19 and been on probation for 11 years!”

In addition to Meek’s compelling testimony, there is phenomenal footage of the rapper “battling” on street corners as a teen, and excerpts from Meek’s raw and realistic rhymes, as well as the graphic violence that often took place in those same neighborhoods. Viewers get to know the man beyond what they often read in the headlines.

“It’s like millions of people like Meek,” Jay-Z said. “It’s just that Meek has a voice because he makes music. So many people we know have been through this same thing, and it was like, ‘Wow! This is like a shot for everyone to be heard.”

“When cops kill people with guns, that’s a terrible thing. When judges kill people on paper, that happens probably a thousand times a day in America,” Meek said.

Contact staff writer Kimberly C. Roberts at (215) 893-5753 or kroberts@phillytrib.com

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