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Freeway: Free At Last

Freeway: Free At Last

Label:Roc-a-fella/def Jam
Release Date:2008
Genre:Hip Hop/Rap

By Raymond Cummings | Posted 1/2/2008

By all rights, Free at Last should be a bitter litany of bellyaching, invective, and sniping. After all, Philadelphia Freeway--Freeway's debut--dropped four years ago, an eon in hip-hop. During that long, long wait in shelved Roc-A-Fella limbo, the Philly-bred MC issued a slept-on posse album as a member of Ice City, spit enervating guest verses on Paul Wall, Turf Talk, and DJ Drama tracks--among others--and watched his first strike fizzle without going gold.

Adversity and desperation are Freeway's artistic fuel; he usually raps in a hysterical, deranged whine, as though perpetually on the verge of a nervous breakdown. What redeemed Philadelphia's thug-life standard-bearing was that demented flow; Free seemed genuinely aggrieved at the very idea of having to kill--figuratively, one hopes--rob, and hustle drugs to support his family. Just Blaze's behind-the-boards grandeur bolstered that album; gratuitous phoned-in A-list cameos (Nelly, Snoop, Mariah, you name it) stunted it.

Free at Last allows Freeway to run mostly solo over grit-grimy no-name beats--which would be great if Freeway hadn't opted to drain his verses here of all emotion and moral conflict, regressing into yet another memoirist-cum-fabulist poseur locked into a major-label deal he won't benefit from. An exception, "This Can't Be Real," rescues jazz-flute virtuosity from Anchorman's schmaltz vault and offers a raw synopsis of the MC's life and times thus far; Free fiercely throttles Bink's "When They Remember" track, breathing lyrical fire and quickening the pulse. But the rest is snooze-button gangsta boilerplate: baseless self-mythologizing, toasting successes not achieved, counting imaginary cash, insisting that he's still down for the 'hood, chastising nameless rappers, and so on. It's all bullshit; Freeway knows we know it's bullshit, and he can't even be bothered to make the contradiction ironic or meta.

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