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Retire #MeekMill and focus on #JusticeReform, rapper says in 'Dateline' interview

| Monday, May 7, 2018, 5:57 p.m.
Rapper Meek Mill speaks during a news conference promoting Gov. Tom Wolf's proposals to reform the criminal justice system at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Thursday, May 3, 2018. Wolf, Mill and several state legislators spoke in favor of reforms.
Rapper Meek Mill speaks during a news conference promoting Gov. Tom Wolf's proposals to reform the criminal justice system at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Thursday, May 3, 2018. Wolf, Mill and several state legislators spoke in favor of reforms.

Philly rapper Meek Mill hopes to shift attention from his personal story to justice reform overall, as he told NBC's Lester Holt in Dreams and Nightmares: The Meek Mill Story, a Dateline special that aired on Sunday — Mill's 31st birthday.

"At this point, it's not all about me having the light to shine on my situation," Mill told Holt about 18 hours after being released from prison on bail last month. "It's about the thousands of others that's caught up in that situation.Let's continue, let's retire the free Meek Mill hashtag and make it hashtag justice reform."

The special focuses on Mill's decade-old legal drama, which started in 2008 after the rapper was convicted of gun and drug offenses. Last year, Judge Genece Brinkley controversially sentenced Mill, real name Robert Rihmeek Williams, to two to four years in prison for probation violations in connection with his conviction.

Following his imprisonment in Chester State Correctional Institution, supports including 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin rallied support around the rapper under a #FreeMeekMill hashtag that included protests in Philadelphia. Celebrity supports including rap mogul Jay-Z and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, as well as fellow Philadelphians Kevin Hart and Roots drummer Questlove, also got involved to draw attention to the case.

Mill ultimately was freed on bail following an order from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month due in part to "credibility issues" with Mill's arresting officer, Reginald Graham. Brinkley granted a hearing in June to discuss a new trial for Mill's case prior to his release last month, but had declined to release the rapper on bail.

Now, as Rubin told Dateline, he believes Mill can leverage the attention his case has gotten to affect a larger change, similar to the #MeToo movement.

"If I think about how much the world has changed as a result of the Me Too Movement, I think Meek Mill will be to criminal justice reform in a lot of ways, what's happened with the Me Too Movement," Rubin said. "So I think he's going to shine a giant light on this incredible problem that we have. And I think he's going to help to make it significantly better."

Despite the support and freedom, however, Mill told Holt following his release that he doesn't yet feel free.

"I ain't feel free since I caught this case at the age of 19," he said. "Me, I just pray. I believe God is my first lawyer; I've always believed that. I don't feel free at all."

Currently, the rapper is at work in an untitled, six-part docuseries in partnership with Amazon Studios. The series, which will also focus on Mill's legal saga, is scheduled to be released some time in 2019. As Mill told Holt, he hopes to use his story to inspire others in similar situations.

"This is the same thing that thousands of other minorities are going through on a daily basis," he said. "They just don't have the platform to have anybody speak out on their behalf. Now they do. At this point, I feel like I'm a sacrifice for a better cause."

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