On eve of sentencing, Meek Mill offers advice to students at Boys Latin

 Meek Mill delivers his message to students at Boys' Latin of Philadelphia Charter School. (Bobby  Allyn/WHYY)

Meek Mill delivers his message to students at Boys' Latin of Philadelphia Charter School. (Bobby Allyn/WHYY)

Rapper Meek Mill made a stop Thursday at Boys’ Latin, the charter school in Southwest Philadelphia, urging students to double down on education and to steer clear of the wrong crowd.

For some of the students, it was a curious message coming from the Philly native, since he’s due in court Friday for sentencing after violating the terms of his probation three times.

“You guys see failure a lot in your neighborhoods growing up? Any one going through real things before they leave for school?” said Mill, wearing a blue-and-white Puma tracksuit. “No matter what situation you come from, don’t let it be the situation that holds you back in life.”

Mill, whose given name is Robert Williams, touched on growing up in a single-parent household, the pressures of the streets and the trauma of experiencing daily violence.

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He said he recently lost a younger cousin to street violence because he “treated life like a game.”

“It’s easy to pick up a gun, or make a bad decision, throw your life away,” said Mill, 28. “It’s harder to hustle, and, year after year, stay focused and go to college and stay a successful man.”

Mill himself dropped out of Strawberry Mansion High School but later earned a GED diploma.

“What’s are the two things that come with the streets? Death, or jail,” Mill said. “Growing up, not having nothing, and seeing nothing but traumatizing things, it made me want to rise up and hustle hard.” 

Mixed reception to Mill’s story 

Recently, he’s annoyed Common Pleas Judge Genece Brinkley, who said at a December hearing that she’s given the entertainer plenty of chances. In return, she said, Mill has continually thumbed his nose at her.

The case stems from a 2007 arrest on charges that Mill was carrying a gun without a license. After serving five months in prison, he was released on parole. Part of the terms of his supervised release required him to report his travel to the court every two months. But he failed to do so, raising Brinkley’s ire.

The city district attorney’s office has also accused him submitted a urine sample that turned out to be cold water, though Mill denies tampering with it.

Brinkley said Mill couldn’t leave the Philadelphia area until his sentencing date and barred him from performing. But Brinkley did allow Mill to do charity or service work.

Student Taaj Dickerson, who said he’s a big Meek Mill fan, said he and hopes the judge delivers a lenient sentence.

 “Growing up, it was hard for me, too. Single mom and all that. Seeing Meek being able to do it, makes me wanna do it,” Dickerson said. “I really felt it.”

But student Isa Long was less impressed.

“Meek Mill isn’t … he’s not the type of success I aspire to,” said Long, who said he plans to become a psychologist. “However, I think people identify with him more because of his struggles.”

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