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Who is rapper Meek Mill and why is Robert Kraft visiting him in prison?

AP
Rapper Meek Mill and his friend and supporter New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft might seem an unlikely person to visit a rapper in prison, but the billionaire businessman’s hip-hop bona fides are for real. Over the past several years, Kraft has partied with Jay-Z, and also enlisted Snoop Dogg, Gucci Mane, and Rick Ross to perform at Super Bowl bashes for his team.

So the news that the 76-year-old Pats poobah paid a visit to the Pennsylvania prison where rapper Meek Mill is currently incarcerated isn’t all that surprising. Kraft went to see Mill — real name Robert Rihmeek Williams — along with Michael Rubin, co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, because he believes the 30-year-old Mill shouldn’t be serving a two-to-four-year sentence for a probation violation.

“Amazing young man. I know how I’d feel if I was in the situation he is,” Kraft told reporters outside the state prison in Chester City. “Every time I see him, I just come away more impressed. He’s very intelligent. And makes it clear to me we have to do something with criminal justice reform.”

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So who is Meek Mill?

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A Philadelphia native, Mill is the nephew of Philly hip-hop legend Grandmaster Nell of Punk Funk Nation. He began freestyle rapping at the age of 12.

He built a substantial online following by posting performances on YouTube, including the single “In My Bag.”

After being signed by Rick Ross, Mill released his first album, “Dreams and Nightmares,” in 2012, featuring guest appearances by Ross, Nas, Wale, Trey Songz, Drake, Big Sean, and John Legend. His second LP, “Dreams Worth More than Money,” was released in 2015, and 2017’s “Wins & Losses” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and features guest appearances by Future, Quavo, Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert, Chris Brown, Ty Dolla Sign, and Yo Gotti.

Mill had been arrested in 2007 on charges of drug possession and carrying a firearm without a license. Two years later, he was found guilty and sentenced to up to 23 months in prison with five years of probation. He was released in 2009, but violated his probation by traveling out of Pennsylvania without court approval.

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In 2014, a judge revoked Mill’s probation after he traveled (again) out of town without permission, and jailed the rapper for five months.

In 2017, Mill was arrested twice. The first time, according to the Washington Post, was allegedly for a fight at an airport in St. Louis. The second time was after he was seen on video doing stunts on a dirt-bike on the streets of New York.

Last fall, Mill was back in court, asking for mercy. “I’m human. I’m not perfect. . . . You gave me the ladder to do what I have to do to prevail in my struggle,” he told a judge, according to the Inquirer. “I made it this far, I can’t really go back and start over.”

Both an assistant DA and Mill’s own probation officer recommended he not be incarcerated, but the judge saw it differently. Even though he’s in prison, the performer remains a big deal. Mill’s raps were booming in the Eagles’ locker room before and after they beat the Patriots in Super Bowl 52.