Roc The Mic Right

I can’t lie, I thought Freeway’s sophomore LP, Free At Last, would never come out. First he got himself occupied with an Ice City group project (which I actually produced a song on, check #7 “Through My Rearview”), and then the whole State Property implosion, and lastly the Roc-A-Fella break-up. I thought he was a goner, destined for the greener pastures of Koch. But he landed back on Roc-A-Fella when Jay took over at Def Jam. And when it was announced roughly a year and a half ago that Jay-Z and 50 Cent would be co-executive producing his project, I imagined it’d be a giant shit sandwich, rife with the after-affects of too much tampering by over-the-hill rappers turned executives. I figured the album would sound like one big copy and paste job, where Jay and 50 picked out 16 records of the 350 thousand songs Freeway has stashed on a hard drive somewhere, and just slapped them together and pressed up a CD. That’s what executive production is these days. But alas, I digress.

Anyway, man was I in for a surprise when I heard this album. Not only is it good, it’s damn near incredible. I’d argue that it’s one of the best East Coast rap records to come out in the past two or three years. Freeway’s voice and delivery have always been an acquired taste, but on this project he blends well with the tracks, never really overpowering the beats or letting the beats overpower him. It’s what you might call a marriage between the lead vocal, the rhythm, and the music. In other words, just some quality hot ass records. There’s not one song I can really think of where I’m like, “Why the fuck did he choose to rhyme like that on this beat?” I can’t say I don’t have that same thought at least 5 or 6 times when I’m listening to most rap albums, which ordinarily sound like just a hodgepodge of wannabe-single tracks slapped together at the last minute to create an album because the label is trying to file for a tax write-off (see Jadakiss signs to Def Jam).

I don’t have a list of production credits, so I don’t know who did each particular track (too bad the record I produced for him, “JUMP,” didn’t make the cut). I can tell you this much, the album is soulful as hell. And that’s no surprise. That’s the sound Roc-A-Fella was built on, and Free is a Philly native. That’s Gamble and Huff territory. That soul is in dude’s blood. But there’s a big difference between Free at Last soul and the soul of Jay’s recent American Gangster project, and I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say Free’s album is the better-produced project. Honestly, I am actually listening to the album scratching my head as to why Jay didn’t pick some of these tracks for AG. The drums hit harder, the samples are more textured and musically diverse, and just overall they are more cohesive and well put together. In fact, I feel like the cohesiveness Jay was aiming for on AG is even more successfully achieved on Free At Last. I can listen to this album start to finish, no skips. AG? Not so much. Definitely a skip or two in there. Even the electro synth blurps of the Rick Ross-assisted “Lights Get Low,” which does stray from the soulful vibe of Free’s album, sits well within the mix of the other songs. So does the crispy clean JR Rotem-production “Take It To The Top,” which is 50′s lone contribution.

Free At Last, in terms of the overall quality of the songs and the project’s cohesiveness, is what the typical rap album experience used to be. I would love to see artists get back to setting this type of standard for themselves. Just making dope records that are lyrically and musically progressive while at the same actually sound good enough to take on a long ride down I-95 without begging for you to chuck the CD or your ipod out the window when that random ass “get your hands in air” wannabe Swizz Beats knockoff track comes on and fucks up your whole mood.

Cratediggers should have some fun trying to find the original samples for most of the joints on the album too. And that’s always a plus.

  • Real Talker

    I’m gon cop this as soon as I see it!!

    Free is the only artist out today that is actually dumb nice and completely origional. NOBODY SOUNDS LIKE HIM, and he’s dope. His rhyme schemes are incredible, he is actually spittin dope lines EVERY RHYME, and his beat selection is always on point. Philadelphia Freeway was a classic!!

    Cant wait to cop this one.

  • Slime

    This was a really good album, im still trying to see if it last in my cd player as long as his first

  • H-LO

    Freeway’s first record was very overlooked. To me it was like the better Documentary (similar production credits, guest list), but I can’t recall it being mentioned once in comment sections, while The Game’s even makes it schockingly regular in alltime best lists. That’s not to say that Philadelphia Freeway dserves that spot, of course.

  • Pingback: american gangster » Blog Archive » Roc The Mic Right

  • DirtDogggy

    Freeways always been dope as fuck anyone who doesn’t like his style has no style period, it’s an aquired taste because most dumb fucks have none. He’s bin hungry since day one and always puts his heart in it, if you don’t already know you never will. It’s all about image and free isn’t exactly the classic pretty boy face little girls and suburban sausagesuckers wanna see on the tube thus being his downfall to stardom, but I’d rather see him stay underground anyway.

  • http://mcarroll4716.blogspot.com mcarroll4716

    “I would love to see artists get back to setting this type of standard for themselves. Just making dope records that are lyrically and musically progressive while at the same actually sound good enough to take on a long ride down I-95 without begging for you to chuck the CD or your ipod out the window when that random ass “get your hands in air” wannabe Swizz Beats knockoff track comes on and fucks up your whole mood.”

    …Contacting Phonte and Big Pooh

  • major

    i agree! i was just listening to free’s first album yesterday and was saying how tight that shit was. I dont think free is the best rapper alive(def not the worst) but the beats and choruses dude has be on point. dude no how to make an album i cant lie

  • ri067953

    Yo, Outside of Jay and Kanye, Beans and Freeway are the only artist that can hold down the Roc. This is why one of the hardest songs to come out of Rocafella was “What We Do” which had Kanye behind the boards and the other 3 laying verses. They should do a whole album together. Jay should put as much promotion behind Beans and Free to make sure they sell properly. Free’s first album is classic material so I am most def gonna check out his newest release.

    • TheMegaDon

      ri0

      Just Blaze produced “What We Do” not Kanye, dumb ass kid!

  • JAY STONE

    Freeway new shit is classic.

  • Arcey

    “Cratediggers should have some fun trying to find the original samples for most of the joints on the album too. And that’s always a plus.”

    Gladys Knight & The Pips “The Way We Were”

  • Sin-cere

    Free 1st album was slept on.. Even myself consider Free garbage until I grab the album and LISTENED. Classic 1st disc and I will cop the new joint. Also Free stayed professional during his hiatus unlike alot of artist who just complain then drop wack albums (respect him 4 tht). 1

  • Plug

    I told niggas way before the album came out that the ish would be crack

  • ejm205

    The instrumentals make it a classic free’s flow is still pretty crazy but he dont be talking about shit. AG’s beats were darker on person as to Free at Last was more soulful but both albums are classic

    The ROC is back

  • EL PHILTH

    GOT THE ALBUM YESTERDAY..LISTENED TO IT 10 TIMES ALREADY IM CATCHIN NOSTALGIA TELLIN ALL THE NINJAS AT MY JOB(WORK AT RECORD LABEL) THAT NY AKA REAL MUSIC IS BACK(EVEN CAM’RON MIXTAPE AINT BAD)I FEEL LIKE HOV HEARD WHAT FREE WAS COOKING ALONG WIT THE HYPE OF 9-11 KANYE AND SAID LEMME JUMP BACK INTO THE GAME,SO NOW I CANT WAIT FOR BEANS TO DROP, THEN NASIR (WHO SHOULDVE BEEN RAPPIN OVER SOULFUL BEATS 10 YEARS AGO,SUMBODY COUNSEL THAT NINJA) THEN HOPEFULLY SUM DYNASTY 2 SHIT..THEN IF THE WORLD DONT BLOW UP THE SUMMER TOUR WIT THE ROC BOYS U DIG,..SWEET

  • prevster

    Acquired taste.. Probably.

    I feel like the screamy voice is always attacking the beat in the same way, going too hard on the snares f.e. + more consistent than Jay’s production? I’ll check back but I am not convinced yet..

    I do feel what you say about the Roc, it’s too bad they didn’t get Joe Budden in the planning no more. I hope Jadakiss gets his, if one slicktaling mc should’ve been featured on AG it was that man..

  • Pingback: zaterdag 8 december: cortez @ cordes! «

  • ca5v tits hjt7

    Roc the mic right.. Super :)

  • http://www.greensboroadultdaycare.com/about.html Greensboro Caring for ElderlyVisit

    Howdy! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept preaching about this. I will forward this article to him. Fairly certain he’s going to have a very good read. Many thanks for sharing!