A new Meek Mill song about police brutality released in the wake of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis cops has an unexpected featured artist: CNN’s Michael Smerconish.
The song, “The Otherside of America,” opens with President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign appeal to black voters — “What do you have to lose?” — and ends with a 2018 exchange between Smerconish and the rapper, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, who explained to Smerconish that he grew up in a neighborhood where police didn’t protect people and, thus, people had to protect themselves.
“If you go out to my neighborhood, you see seven people die a week I think you would probably carry a gun yourself. Would you?” the rapper asks in the song’s conclusion.
“Yeah,” responds the host. “I probably would, yes.”
On Saturday, Smerconish explained how his voice came to be in the work and gave the necessary context for the 2018 chat: “It paints a vivid picture of street life and addresses racial inequality and police brutality. He draws on his childhood and time spent in prison in 2017. Believe it or not, yours truly has a cameo. I didn’t even know about it in advance.”
Smerconish went on, pointing out that during their 2018 conversation, he asked Meek Mill “to respond to a critic who said he was not the ideal spokesman for criminal justice reform” and didn’t expect the artist to “turn the tables” and ask him a question in response.
“While answering my question, he asked me if I’d carry a gun in the same situation. What immediately flashed through my mind was I’d done the same thing in suburbia. There was no way I could truthfully say that if instead I lived in the city, I would not, which, I guess, is why that reply now ends his hot new song.”
The artist has been raising awareness of issues related to American policing and incarceration for years. His Amazon docuseries “Free Meek” used the rap star’s incarceration to take a deeper look at America’s probation and parole system.