Meek Mill has been a free man for a couple weeks and since then he's rededicated himself to his fight for justice reform. Since his 2017 sentencing following a 2008 gun charge, he's been working to bring visibility to the issue that not only affects him but thousands of other black men in the prison system. Last month, Lester Holt shared an optimistic interview on NBC Nightly News prior to Meek's release, where the rapper remained hopeful that it was his job to help other young black men in the same predicament. Lester Holt followed Meek Mill since his release late last month for a new Dateline special.
The special caught the behind-the-scene moments we'd seen on social media: the release, the helicopter, and the 76ers game. What the public didn't see what that Meek had no clue he would be a free man that morning. "I looked in my cell and looked at the news and it came on the news," he told his lawyer moments after his release. Less than 18 hours after being unsure of his status of freedom, he sat with Lester Holt about how this arrest changed his life.
"I ain't feel free since I caught this case at 19, I'm 30 now… I don't feel free at all," he told Holt. At 19, he was sentenced to 11-23 months, with 8 years of probation that extended with each violation he incurred. "I thought the definition of probation was to help better you, keep you on track, and not destroy you." Technical violations, like random drug tests, travel restrictions and scheduling conflicts are enough to land him back in jail. Meek's case isn't out of the ordinary, it's just more visible because of his celebrity. "This is the same thing that thousands of other minorities are going through at this exact moment…I feel like I'm the sacrifice for a better cause," he says.
In the interview, he reveals to Holt how his first night as a free man felt.
It felt like a dream. When I got in my bed that night… I closed my eyes and thought like, 'Don't let me open my eyes back up and this is just a good dream.' In jail, you dream a lot about being on the streets but you wake up and you're back in prison.
He also talked about his former drug habit, one that played a role in lengthening his jail time.
I was addicted to opioids, popping Percocets on and off because it always been a battle with me, I never just been a guy to get high my whole life and think drugs was the solution…It was a violation every time I got caught taking the pills. They set up a rehabilitation for me and they cleansed my body. I had therapy and I never touched a Percocet again.
Watch the full episode below.
Kristin Corry is a staff writer for Noisey. Follow her on Twitter.