When enigmatic Manchester rapper Meekz performed at the BRIT awards in February, alongside U.K rap’s heavyweight champions - Dave, Fredo, Ghetts & Giggs - it felt like that moment when a gifted Olympic boxer switches codes to the professional ranks, and competes for the world title in their first professional bout. The live rendition of his unforgettable verse on Dave’s ‘In the Fire’ was the clear standout, and introduced his gravelly, powerful tone - revered by his peers and rap fans - to a mainstream audience of millions. He admits there were nerves beforehand. “I just wanted to get it right,” he says. “But I was worried about the moment and the fellas were more worried about the afterparty … That’s when I realised I need to loosen up in this bitch!” he jokes. The warmth of the memory radiates in his voice. “My nana phoned me and cried, and said she loves me. She’s never, ever said that to me. That was emotional. It was an amazing moment for me, a ‘pinch me’ moment. But this is what I came to do.” For Meekz, this is only the beginning.
His come up, from the streets of Gorton to U.K rap’s top table, has been incredible and turbulent at the same time. To understand where he’s going, you need to understand where he’s been; Gorton, Southeast of Manchester’s city centre, is in the top 10% of England’s most deprived neighbourhoods. “Gore-town, init. It’s all in the name. It’s a gory place,” Meekz says. “It’s built on a cemetery. And for such a small place, we’ve lost so many people, there’s just been death after death. But it’s a beautiful place too, it’s home, it’s family, it’s community.” His role models were taking big risks to carve a better life for themselves against all odds, and he soon found himself on that same dangerous road. He’s lived the life he describes so vividly in his raps - one of drug dealing, robbery, violence and retaliation, where big wins are dulled by trauma and loss - and has been incarcerated numerous times because of it. “Back then, I just knew that world. Now, the world has opened up and I can see a lot of opportunities,” he reflects. “But when I was in those shoes, nobody could tell me anything. Like, ‘I’ve gotta get what I’ve gotta get.’ I felt like nobody was helping me and the world was against me.”
It was while in jail in 2018 that Meekz manifested a new path for himself, after reading smuggled-in page after page of 2006 self-help book The Law of Attraction and being inspired. He wrote himself an imaginary cheque for £100,000 from a major record label; his way of willing that new path into existence. He’d been immersed in rap music since the cradle, and remembers car journeys as a little boy with his mum at the wheel, blasting classic cuts from the likes of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Luniz. He was born the year Tupac died, which meant the late rapper’s music was fresh in the hearts and minds of those around him. “Pac was heavily embedded in everyone’s soul when I was growing up,” he says. While Master P, The Real Untouchables and No Limit Records helped shape his ambitious way of thinking. “From young I just knew there were no limits to this stuff.” He’d always rapped as a means of getting things off his chest. “It was an everyday thing for me, a part of my life. I’d be writing lyrics every single day.” He resolved to channel that passion, and the pain he’d accrued while taking the risks he’d been taking, into a career in music.
Donning a mask to ensure nothing would detract or distract from the depth of his lyrics, Meekz the rapper emerged in 2018. He’s since released only a precious handful of freestyles and singles, and has dropped one concise EP - 2020’s Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop - fuelled by the pain of losing close friends and fellow Manchester artists Dale Deezy and Tecca. In an era where artists strive for continuous engagement, flooding social media feeds and streaming services with content for fear of being forgotten, he’s gone the opposite way; Meekz is an outlier, prioritising patience and blessing listeners with quality over quantity, striving for something deeper. He’s established himself as one of U.K rap’s brightest, most intriguing talents, who slices through the frost of street boasts and menace with moments of profound introspection. His music resonates with people on a grand scale: Meekz’s work has racked up 250 million streams to date; and he’s approaching 100 million streams on Youtube, with 200,000 subscribers locked into his channel. With highly anticipated debut mixtape Respect The Come Up, he announces himself as the scene’s next superstar.
The 10-track project includes pre-release singles ‘Respect The Come Up’ & ‘More Money’ and seven brand new songs, plus a remastered version of ‘Take Losses’ - the 2018 cut which helped launch his career after the buzz it created on SoundCloud became too loud to ignore. “I just wanted to make great music,” Meekz says of the tape. “It shows the diversity of what I can actually do as an artist. Each song is different, in so many different ways. I spent a long time making them and even now they still make me think and want to talk. I’ve got a hundred things to say about each one.” It features two guest appearances, and they’re notable ones, emphasising his status as a rapper’s rapper. He spars with Central Cee on ‘Don’t Like Drill’. Meekz might not be a drill artist by definition, but his choppy flow is razor sharp over the track’s ricocheting percussion, like a fighter switching stance from orthodox to southpaw and being just as clinical a puncher. Dave jumps on ‘Fresh Out The Bank’ - a fun, rowdy payday anthem, revealing Meekz’s previously unheard flair for writing an infectious earworm of a hook. “That night we recorded it, I was in a really good zone. The energies was lit, the mandem were there, the studio was a party, we were dancing,” he remembers. Meekz recorded the hook in one impossible-to-replicate take, preserving a joyful moment in time. “The vocals I hit, the pitch, that’s the first time I’ve ever hit those notes. I didn’t know I had those notes in me,” he laughs. “I’m proud of that one.”
Meekz’s artistic development is showcased across the mixtape. On titular track ‘Respect The Come Up’ he subtly manipulates his rapping voice to convey the depth of emotion in his lyrics, his forceful delivery softening around the sombre realisation that “I can’t give my life to a phone,” referring to the trap line that dominated his past. The video for the track, which dropped last year, emphasises his elevation towards a better life, with him rapping from the skies aboard a helicopter. It was nominated as video of the year for the GRM Daily Rated Awards. While ‘Hustlers Ambition’ is full of lush musicality, with a rich, smoky saxophone line providing the backdrop for some deeply personal lyrics. “A lot of my family members say that’s their favourite one. It's a family-oriented one, with a deeper message,” he says. The song is about Meekz being able to impart wisdom on the young people around him. “The only thing I can do is show them, and continue to prove to them that there’s a possibility of something better. And it’s been working. I can see it working. And if it helps one, five, or a hundred kids, then I’ve done an amazing job. And I just wanna continue to do that.”
Respect The Come Up is a project about being intentional in pursuing your dreams and making something from nothing. Yes, Meekz wants us to respect that journey, but at its core is self-love and self-worth. It’s a reminder to himself, to respect how far he’s come. “Respect The Come Up is not just a boast. I’ve lived in hostels. I’ve been homeless. I know what it means to have no bank account. The come up has really been amazing for me,” he reflects. “I have to respect how far I’ve come. And I’m not saying I’ve come all the way. But I have to respect it. It’s like I know my self-worth now. I know I can’t just be in the club at 4 AM. I know I can’t go to jail now. Because I’m here to fulfil my purpose. I think the tape shows that.”