Meek Mill Reflects on the Toll of Prison and Why His Upbringing Left Him ‘Traumatized’

In one of his first post-jail interviews, Meek Mill discusses prison life, freedom and how to change an unjust system.

He’d slept three hours in the last two days and hadn’t had a moment to collect himself and wrap his head around the news that he was free. But the morning after his sudden release from prison, Meek Mill was at ease as technicians buzzed around him, hanging lights and setting up booms. We’d assembled at a recording studio in central Philadelphia, expecting to find him loopy and raw after a night of being feted by his town.

He’d been choppered from prison by his friend Michael Rubin, the billionaire co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, to sit on Celebrity Row at the Wells Fargo Arena for Game Five of their playoff series with the Miami Heat. Afterward, Rubin and a raucous group of stars — Kevin Hart, Dwayne Wade, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid — dined at a nearby restaurant, closing the place down at 3 a.m.

Instead, Meek sat calmly, creasing the sleeve of his Gucci bomber, as if this was just another couch in another town, not the first day of his second shot at life. “Five months in prison, all I did was sleep,” he tells Rolling Stone. “I don’t need to rest, I need to work.”

He’d been sitting in his cell at the state prison in Chester when word reached him that he had been granted bail in a writ by the state Supreme Court. “I found out like everyone else — I saw it on TV,” he says. “I flipped around the dial just to be sure. Even so, I’m like, Do I trust this? Meek can be excused for his skepticism. For 11 years, he’s lived in a judicial web with no clear means of escape. He was arrested in 2007 by a corrupt cop named Reggie Graham; convicted of gun and drug counts solely on Graham’s word; then held on probation by his nemesis, Geneice Brinkley, a judge notorious in Philly for remanding people to prison on technical violations.

Charged with no crimes since his 2007 bust, Meek’s served three stints in prison, a year of house arrest and a decade of strict probation. Even after news broke about Graham’s corruption — he’d been featured on a list of dishonorable cops by the former District Attorney Seth Williams — Brinkley declined to grant Meek bail, let alone void his verdict. Last week, her superior, President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper, agreed to toss the convictions of three men busted by Graham. One hundred and five more are queued for quick dismissal. Just one defendant — Meek — has been forced to soldier on. Brinkley refuses to relinquish his case; he must go before her in June to present the same facts that have freed other victims of Graham’s.

Speaking to Rolling Stone, the rapper discussed the fallout from five months in prison.

What has it been like to see your son Rihmeek again and realize that due to your imprisonment, you’ve been a bit of a stranger to him?
The most upsetting part was, my son got suspended when I was arrested and serving time. My son had never been suspended. He always been doing great in school, and I felt like I was a great failure by being incarcerated. [Not] raising my son was like a big grief to me. It hurt me a lot. It angered me, but yesterday I held my son. We had conversation, I think he happy, and I told him I would never leave him again.

He’s about the age than you were when you lost your father.
Yeah, it’s a little different. My father got murdered, and I knew somebody killed him. That’s how I remember it. My aunt said, “You tell your dad goodbye like he ain’t never coming back.” It registered to me as a little kid what she said, and I always remembered it. I had a phone [in jail], so I stayed in contact with him [Rihmeek], I tried to keep the connection there, but it’s not a real connection when you only could call at certain hours. My son, he don’t get home from school at 6 o’clock, so you know, it ain’t do me the real justice. It was just a reflection of what happens over and over with young black men, like a lot of young black men grow up without father figures and you end up in the wrong places. I always said, “Your…