Back in 2003 I was fortunate enough to pick up Freeway's debut, Philadelphia Freeway. It came on the heels of Jay-Z’s The Blue Print (2001/my favorite Jay-Z album) and saw Roc-A-Fella records climb to the forefront of the Hip-Hop hype machine. They had a solid MC roster and two of the best producers in the game, Just Blaze and an up and comer by the name of Kanye West. Freeway had arrived at just the right time to take advantage of the momentum, and Philadelphia Freeway didn’t disappoint. The album featured Freeway’s distinct growl, not stopping to catch a rookie breather, and was almost entirely produced by the two dynamite sound boys previously mentioned. An impressive debut to say the least.
Now four years later he has returned with a follow-up, Free at Last, with intentions of bringing the fire back to life. The problem this time is that while Freeway was out, the home turf got a little messy. Beanie Siegel, the man who brought Freeway to Roc-A-Fella, ran into legal trouble and his State Property crew fell apart. All the chaos killed Freeway’s limelight going into a second release and he seemed to disappear off the map with his State Property peers.
On Free at Last, the big name producers are missing (the only returnee is Bink!) and have taken the hype machine with them. Bink!’s production is still strong, “Still Got Love” is one of the albums best tracks and he plays some funky live drums on “When They Remember.” Overall, the album lacks diversity and plateaus half way through, but some gems appear in the mix. The beat by Dangerous LLC on “Spit that Shit” is a solid Dr.Dre impression and Scarface* comes to the rescue on “Baby Don’t Do It.” The albums two worst tracks are the radio friendly "Roc-A-Fella Billionaires" ft. Jay-Z and "Take It To The Top" ft. 50 Cent, both executive producers on the album, evidence that Rap’s royalty no longer have the Midas touch. Free at Last, does not stand up to Freeway’s debut, but shows plenty of heart when the chips are down. He's proven he can make it on his own, which is actually something new this time.
*The new Scarface is ridiculous. It has yet to leave my rotation since it came out and should contend for “Album of the Year,” no matter the genre, more on this later.