Between two California stops on his concert tour, rapper Meek Mill flew across the country to talk about criminal justice reform at the 13th annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Friday morning.
“I wanted to come here myself, be in front of you guys, and bring awareness to what’s going on deep down in America,” he told the crowd, less than 24 hours after performing at the Hollywood Palladium Thursday night.
Mill, who said he went straight to the airport after his show and didn’t sleep on the plane, was joined on stage by his friend and business partner, Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin. The pair, along with Patriots owner Robert Kraft, rapper Jay-Z, and CNN commentator Van Jones, recently launched the REFORM Alliance, which is an organization dedicated to lobbying for changes to state probation and parole laws.
“What we’re focused on is changing the laws in each state that don’t make sense,” Rubin explained, citing the lack of a cap on the length of probation in his and Mill’s home state of Pennsylvania as an example.
While much of the panel discussion Friday was about Mill’s wrongful 2008 conviction and his subsequent experiences with probation and incarceration, the 31-year-old “Dreams and Nightmares” artist said he wants the conversation to go beyond his own story. Mill said it was important to him that he participate in SSAC so that he can continue his mission of spreading awareness about certain flaws within the judicial system.
He expressed hope that his efforts can provide others with “a shot at life.”
“I experienced firsthand how hard it was to make it where I am,” Mill said. “A lot of people always really surround the story around me, but I don’t really like surrounding it around myself because my situation is minor to what I’ve actually seen with my own two eyes.”
Through the process, Mill has had conversations with both Rubin and Kraft, sharing personal accounts that Rubin said he didn’t believe were real.
“I know they don’t come from my world,” Mill said. “They just thought these things were so outrageous, and I’m like, ‘In my world, this is a normal thing.’ People die every day. People go to prison every day. That was my world I grew up in.”
“I think this is a giant issue that most Americans don’t understand,” added Rubin.
Upon the conclusion of the hour-long panel, the crowd gave Mill and Rubin a standing ovation for their powerful remarks, though Mill also garnered a few cheers earlier when he said he recently sent a direct message to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
“I was like, ‘Yo, Tom, you’re the GOAT,’” he recalled. “I didn’t even know Tom Brady knew who I was. I just took a shot. And he was like, ‘I see that you’ve been through so much. What you went through was kind of like almost harder than winning a Super Bowl game.’”