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"Philadelphia Freeway came as the debut album from Freeway in 2003. The Roc-A Fella rapper comes with something fresh for Hip hop as he performs an underground styled verion of it all with a destinctive Philly sound (which never went mainstream.
Starting the album off in the right way, Freeway introduces himself by letting the raps speak for him (if you get what I mean) as he makes sure that it is the skills of writing lyrics and delivery which introduce the listeners to him, rather than a short biography by him.
2. "What We Do"
I have heard this one so many times, but I never really picked up on how good of a trakc it was unitl recently as I could finally appreciate all of the tune with the whole arrangement of having the best talent of Roc-A-Fella together with freeway collaborating with Benaie Sigel and Jay-Z on some Just Blaze beats.
3. "All My Life"
This is a big one on the album, and I can't see how anyone could think any other way towards it as it has him working incredibly well to some beats from Bink (who has worked with Memphis Bleek, Rick Ross and Xzibit in the past). Also with Nate Dogg on the hook, he comes with something truely engaging to get you to take notice.
I saw this as the biggest track on the album as it has him doing an up-tempo tune alongside Peedi Crack, and the support of this fellow Philly rapper, who provides some of the most exciting speed flows, is what makes this such a banger. it is fun Hip hop from him, and stacnds right out in the album with its heavy percussion and high energy.
5. "On My Own"
Here you get an unexpected collaboraion as the underground MC, Freway is given a chance to wst Pop Rapper in the game, Nelly. I thought that this one was only in place in order to promote Freeway and show that he has support from the top names, but this commerical work was a big out of the ordinary for it all.
6. "We Get Around"
Straight off one big collaboration to another, the uality levels are immediatey just from reading the name 'Snoop Dogg' as a guest on this one. Just Blaze comes with a funky composition for this one, and it is the perfect backing for this one as they do one where they are simply just having fun and hyping the fact that they have a way with the females.
7. "Don't Cross The Line"
This is one where Freeway is given a chance to show exactly what is so good about his MCing abilities as he raps with great cofidence apparent straight off the hype of the prduction. It seems as though he had wrote it after hearing it as it fits the compostion in every area, and it leads to great results.
Free gets Beanie Sigel to work with him again on this one, and although I don't usually think much of his work Sigel was fairly strong on this track, and he definitly took over the track with the heading performer being placed in a secondary role. I thought that it was alright, but nothing special.
9. "Full Effect"
I knew straight away that it was Just Blaze who as responsible for this one as he comes with some of the biggest beats in the whole thing for this one. Freeway turns to 2Pac for inspiration on this one as he re-words the Phil Collins-based "Staring Through My Rearview" before coming with fresh words for the listeners. The production for the whole album is great, and this is one of the times where the raps match the quality of the beats.
10. "Turn Out The Lights"
In the first of two Freewest collaborations (with Freeway working on some Kanye West beats) you get them doing some big things to show that we are in a new phase of Hip Hop, and the 'Ye beats are the way forward. It is one of the strongest tunes hear, and is representative of the whole thing.
11. "Victim of the Ghetto"
I was well into this one as the rapper is able to take a step back and look upon his life, and how he fits into everything. It gets him talking about how he is simply a victim of circumstance, and he was unfortunate in being born where he was, as it led to a poor start to his life. It is some thought-provoking work, and indirectly influenced others to do similar work.
12. "You Don't Know"
Working off similar themes to the one which came just before it, you have a cold track from the artist, in a tune which you would have expected for an outro to the album. It gets him speaking on how dark life can be out on the Philly streets, and wha he comes across on a regular basis.
The title to it is the perfect description to the tune as it is just " Alright" and not much more than this. It as the rapper seemingly do a secondary introduction as this one is a lot more personal in terms of how he chooses to do one were he speaks upon his own experiences 9rather than genreal things).
14. "Hear The Song"
The then Roc top name (alongside Just Blaze), Kanye West is on the beats hear as he takes on some old Chic work (which was then used once again by Nas the following year. It is a big one, and I liked that we ended it on a high without some dark material, which many often fall sway towards when struggling for a finale to the release.
This is a big debut from Freeway, and an alternative one which you should sample. Although he hasn't made much of an immpression on the Hip Hop world up to this point, this album is a big one, and a tune which you shouldn't just ignore. The beats in it are amazing as he was fortunate to be with Roc-A-Fella when two of the best ever Hip Hop producers were at the top of their game and at this label as in-house beatmakers.
Freeway is probably a rapper that many of you will not of heard of, this 2003 debut album is a bit like a who's who in rap though when you look at who produced it and the artists 'guesting' on it, when you see the track listing below you will see what I mean.
The truth is, he isn't that successful, having only released two albums, the latest last year (2007), having defected from Jay-Z alone to collaborating with 50 Cent on his latest album.
So why so unpopular? Maybe it is because he is a devout Muslim, maybe he just has not produced enough, 2 albums in 6 years is somewhat sparse for a rapper, anyways, the music. Freeway's real name by the way is Lesley Pridgen.
Really heavy drum n bass start, a song about being incacerated. He has a very distinctive voice on this track which is almost 'sweet'. This song is full of expletives and I wonder how he lines this with his faith, however the message of the song is 'don't get involved' with gangs etc. I really like the backing 'whoo, whoo' singers it fits really well. Good opener 8/10.
2. What We Do (featuring Jay-Z/Beanie Sigel)
Real 70's hustle/funk feel to the start of this track and his vocal is a fair bit rawer than the first track. Kanye West has a huge influence on this album and this could be a Kanye song, yet he is not listed as being involved with this song. Sounds quite like it could have been released today, not nearly 6 years ago. With Beanie and Jay-Z involved to, it is very good, very strong. 8/10.
3. All My Life (featuring Nate Dogg)
I do not like the opening, all macho posturing and 'introductions', something 'Fiddy' does all the time. In fact I don't really like this song much at all, it is menacing without actually going anywhere. 3/10.
4. Flipside (featuring Peedi Crakk)
The start is quite clublike and it feels like it is winding up to be a really good song, lots of frantic drum n bass. Except it starts well and does not seem to change much throught, lots of 'rap battle' type rapping but quite repetitive. 3/10.
5. On My Own (featuring Nelly)
The distinctive voice of Nelly comes in from the very start and it is much 'busier' than you wouls expect from nelly alone. In fact Nelly just provides a platform for Freeway to let loose with some quite hard rapping. We get 'visits' from nelly throughoput the song. I love the constant bass riff on this track. 6/10.
6. We Get Around (featuring Snoop Dogg)
Speaking of distinctive voices....Snoop....This is a quite a disjointed song, just feels like too much is going on all at once, not for me. 3/10.
7. Don't Cross The Line (featuring Faith Evans)
Very interesting start, again, could be a Kanye song, especially with the use of female backing vocals. I quite like this, especially when we get faith coming in and 'taking over' every now and then. This is a big song, fast rapping and sweet soulful backing vocals. Works for me 7/10.
8. Life (featuring Beanie Sigel)
A 'rock' guitar start, wow that was unexpected. In fact he raps over a heavy drum beat and the guitar is always there in the background. This is a really good song, very much about (and he uses these words) "same shit different day" and it is a refelection of life in the ghetto. I do like this, very, very strong. He is so much better when he slows down. 8/10.
9. Full Effect (featuring Young Gunz)
Musically a great start, full of promise and menace, longest 'intro' so far. He almost gets into singing here as well as a slow rap. There is a backing riff, a mix between bass guitar and electric keyboards which is quite brilliant in it's simplicity and ability to draw the listener in.
10. Turn Out the Lights (featuring Kanye West)
Not only does Kanye sing on this, he also produced the track and it shows. Don't forget, this album was released a year before Kanye's debut album, yet we see his competence here already, and a taste of his own lyrics to come...'Lexus' features in quite a few of Kanye's songs. Great funky use of guitar on this track. Probably the strongest track to this point on the album. 9/10.
11. Victim of the Ghetto (featuring Rell)
Bit of a clichéd song for me, kind of heard it all before, not bad, I do like Rell's vocal, not heard him before, quite 70's feel to his vocal with a clear 90's rap message to 'be right'. 5/10.
12. You Don't Know (In the Ghetto) (featuring Omillio Sparks)
Real heavy funk/soul vocal in the background and a nice laconic rap here, good but not special, a song about discrimination really. 6/10.
13. Alright (featuring Allen Anthony)
Boring, heard it all before. 2/10.
14. Hear The Song
Great beginning again, real mix of rap and funk again, quite cool lyrics too. I like this as he raps well with a good musical score backing him up and some nice backing vocals. A really strong song again, and he 'tells a story' throughout, very contemporary. Unlike many of the songs on this album it really builds well and has different 'levels' to the song. Produced by Kanye and again, it is almost like he is singing, my favourite track on the album. 9/10.
15. You Got Me (featuring Jay-Z/Mariah Carey)
I really do not like Mariah Carey so I have tried to be objective.....horrid start with an awful chipmunk like interlude (Akon like). Kind of a ballad, well as much of a ballad as is allowed in rap. Okay, her vocal is okay, but this track is so out of kilter with the rest of the album it just aint right. 3/10.
16. Line 'Em Up (featuring Young Chris)
Bit of gospel organ to start and then a nice lead guitar riff, lots of 'introductions' again, that bores me. This is one of those songs where everyone gets a go at rapping 'fuck the cops' type lyrics, guitar great, vocals average, structure, poor. 4/10.
A competent debut, not brilliant but good. I feel there is just a little too much 'guesting' almost like Jay-Z was trying to 'sell' Freeway to the World by showing how many people were willing to work with him.
For the fact alone that we see Kanye West's emerging brilliance, it is worth a buy, and Amazon can give it up for less than a pound second hand. Will appeal to rap fans, but not hardcore rap fans, Kanye fans, Nelly fans etc.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Free - Freeway
2 What We Do - Freeway, Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel
3 All My Life - Freeway, Nate Dogg
4 Flipside - Freeway, Peedi Crakk
5 On My Own - Freeway, Nelly
6 We Get Around - Freeway, Snoop Dogg
7 Don't Cross The Line - Freeway, Faith Evans
8 Life - Freeway, Beanie Sigel
9 Full Effect - Freeway, Young Gunz
10 Turn Out The Lights (Freewest) - Freeway
11 Victim Of The Ghetto - Freeway, Rell
12 You Don't Know (In The Ghetto) - Freeway, Sparks
13 Alright - Freeway, Allen Anthony
14 Hear The Song - Freeway
15 You Got Me - Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, Freeway
16 Line 'Em Up - Freeway, Young Chris