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Hold Up, Wait a Minute: Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares” Is the Underdog Anthem That Defined the Eagles’ Super Bowl Win

The most Philly of all rap songs soundtracked the Eagles’ playoff run and rejuvenated the cause of a jailed hometown hero

AP Images/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

By now, if you’re a Patriots fan, you doubtless have your Thing on which to blame New England’s Super Bowl LII loss: a dubious understanding by everyone of what the phrase “completing the process” means; Bill Belichick’s questionable decision to green-light a lateral for the first time in his career; the conspicuous lack of Malcolm Butler; PASS INTERFERENCE. I’d like to do you the kindness of providing you with a bit of closure. The cold, hard truth of it is that you, Patriots fan, were set on the course for bitter disappointment before the game even started.

Let me backpedal a tiny bit: The Philadelphia Eagles triumphed in Super Bowl LII on Sunday night after scoring more points than the New England Patriots. Good times were had by most. I have reason to suspect that this—the Eagles’ first championship in the Super Bowl era, the only era that actually counts—has everything to do with Meek Mill. In fact I don’t suspect it—this is just something that is. Here’s a video of Eagles players bouncing through warm-ups, vowing success and revenge, right before they went out and hung 38 points on the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship:

Friend, they were always going to win after this. I think I spied you unclenching your fists. I’m glad to see this is working for you.

As the story goes, special teams coordinator Dave Fipp put on Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares” before a meeting two weeks ago, and the song, released in October 2012, both electrified and took on a new meaning for everybody present. Rather than read about the liturgy that broke out in the film room, you can just look at linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill’s Instagram story:

After the NFC championship, the song spiked in popularity on streaming music platforms, because that’s the way things work now. And you don’t want to hear it, I know, but this really is perfect.

“Dreams and Nightmares” is the intro to Meek’s studio debut of the same title. Dreams and Nightmares proved Meek could gracefully transition from mixtapes and not lose any of his bona fides or tenacity in the process, and it eventually went platinum. It also sort of came and went because it never quite lived up to the promise of the singles, and Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City had come out one week earlier. The Eagles were exciting and ominous, too, until Carson Wentz tore his ACL in a road win over the Los Angeles Rams in early December. The idea of “Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles” seemed immediately more far-fetched, because who was going the distance with Nick Foles?

But more about this intro, though. It begins heavenly; there are pianos, strings, and somewhere, I assume, curtains being swept out of bay windows and over a balcony. For the first half of “Dreams and Nightmares,” Meek is talking about the titular dreams, which he’s already achieved. He goes on about things he has now that he didn’t used to: a Phantom he can’t fit in a parking spot, a shorty that wants to bless him like achoo, a feature with Mariah Carey.

And then the nightmare starts. I really enjoy the way Genius marks it in the script:

[BEAT CHANGE] is probably sufficient but I’ll add that the song transforms into a lightning bolt, which then strikes you through the heart. He just. Keeps. Rapping. And there are no hooks! You have time to die, and then come back to life, and Meek will still not be finished provoking people.

We young niggas and we mobbin’, like Batman and we robbin’
This two-door Maybach with my seat all reclinin’
I’m that real nigga, what up? Real nigga, what up?
If you ain’t about that murder game then, pussy nigga, shut up!

New Yorker culture critic Hua Hsu wrote that “a good piece of music is a model of community,” and “Dreams and Nightmares” qualifies. Once you start, you have to commit to the song fully, feeling it in your soul, rapping it with your hands and your face, with as many people as you can find. It’s mob music. It’s underdog music. The song itself, never planned to be a single, was an underdog. Chris Long and Lane Johnson wore dog masks on the field after shocking the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC divisional round. You get it.

The Eagles and Meek haven’t always had the rosiest relationship—the team did play “Back to Back” that one time in training camp—but it only made sense that they took U.S. Bank Stadium to “Dreams and Nightmares” on Sunday. Last Wednesday, defensive end Brandon Graham said to that “if you’re going to go with a Philly song, that’s the one you’re going with.” “It just gets us going,” said Derek Barnett, another defensive end. “It gives us good energy. Just a little extra juice.”

Barnett also added that Meek is locked up at the moment.

On November 6, Meek Mill was sentenced to two to four years for violating the terms of his probation. It is complicated: This was his fifth violation, but he was still serving probation at age 30 for a string of cases that began when he was 19, and the presiding judge, Genece E. Brinkley, may have conducted herself improperly. Meek’s plight threw the inadequacies of our criminal justice system into sharp contrast. It also brought about the resurgence of #FreeMeek, because it’s Free Meek until Meek is free.

When Meek heard that the Eagles had adopted “Dreams and Nightmares” as an anthem, he was honored. He said, in a statement to Bleacher Report and NBCSports Philadelphia, “It really lifted my spirit to hear the team rally around my songs because that’s why I make music—to inspire others and bring people together.”

I’ve seen a lot of people I know weeping tears of joy over what happened tonight. I wonder what Meek feels now. Don’t you?

Patriots fans, I know you’re upset, but you have to appreciate when the soundtrack syncs up perfectly with the action, and a contender, laid low by physical and emotional injury, triumphs and gets to have its moment in the sun.

As for the rest, we’d like sweeping criminal justice reform, but we’ll settle for having Meek out for the parade.