Freeway Can ‘Do It on His Own’
In 2003, Freeway released his debut album ‘Philadelphia Freeway’ as he, Beanie Sigel and Memphis Bleek were riding high on the wave of Roc-A-Fella’s success. The album was manned by Def Jam’s in-house producer Just Blaze, with some extra tweaking from a relatively unknown Kanye West. The 16-track LP was a big hit compared to Freeway’s second release ‘Free at Last’ four years later, which received a lukewarm reception, thanks to a lengthy absence from the music scene.
Last Tuesday (Feb. 16), the Philadelphia native released his latest album, ‘The Stimulus Package,’ via indie hip-hop label, Rhymesayers Entertainment. The album was created entirely by producer Jake One, and although it is Freeway’s fourth solo project, it also marks his first well-promoted effort outside of the Def Jam umbrella. The Philly emcee is no stranger to the process of putting together an album, but without the support system of his crew, it seemed valid to question his mindset.
“My main message, is that I just want the people to know that I can do it on my own,” he tells The BoomBox. “I want them to know that this is what I’m gonna do, we’re gonna continue to make good music for the people. The music and the creative aspect of it is definitely not a struggle. I feel great and I work well, but as far as the business side of things, it’s definitely a little hard because I’m doing a lot on my own. I’m doing a lot of the things that at Roc-A-Fella, they did. So it’s definitely a little struggle, but it’s worth it.”
After releasing two albums on Def Jam, and a third on Real Talk Entertainment, Freeway took the new project over to Minneapolis-based Rhymesayers, which houses artists such as Brother Ali and MF DOOM. “Working with Rhymesayers — they’re hands on with me. I feel as though they feel more intimately about the project than a major label would feel. At Roc-A-Fella, they gave us creative freedom too, so as far as that aspect of it it’s not very different, but I’m just more hands on with this project,” Freeway says.
Working with one producer on the entire album gave Free the chance to lock into one vibe and show fans his maturity as a rapper. “The album is soulful, it’s conceptual, it’s hip-hop. It’s the music that people know me for and love me for, but I’m taking it to the next level,” he says. “The whole album is produced by one producer. We took it back to that chemistry and y’all are gonna love it.”
“I’m a reality rapper, so I talk about what I see, what’s going on, things of that nature. I definitely touch base on some Roc-A-Fella things on a couple songs,” he says. “That’s where I made my start so I’m definitely always gonna be affiliated with Roc-A-Fella.” But touching base means just that.
Despite his kinship with fellow Philly rapper Beanie Sigel, Freeway continues to steer clear of Sigel’s current contention with Jay-Z. Words were thrown at the former Roc CEO as recently as last week during Freeway’s album release party in Philadelphia, but the bearded rapper remained relatively mum on the subject. “I’m just chilling, I’m not taking sides,” he said. “Certain people handle certain things differently, but I still love Beans and I still got love for Jay too.”
After all his recent time spent in the studio, Freeway says he’s still got plenty of material left for a future project. And though he has no plans for a new solo release just yet, it’s safe to say that producer Jake One would be in the mix once again. “I’m not sure when my next project’s gonna be, but I’ve got like 40 songs done already and I think twelve or thirteen are with Jake already, so we’re definitely gonna do more work together.”