Born Leslie Pridgen, the Philadelphia, PA-based emcee Freeway is arguably best known for his stint as a Roc-A-Fella Records artist, his affiliation with Jay Z and Beanie Siegel and as a member of State Property, as well as his commercially and critically successful 2003 debut effort Philadelphia Freeway, an effort that was certified gold after selling 500,000 units — thanks in part to his gruff and raspy vocal delivery, rhyming about his days hustling to survive in North Philadelphia with a world-weariness that frequently suggests a desire to be more, do more and see more than the block. And as a result, much like Freddie Gibbs and a few others, it grounds Freeway’s material in a profound and gritty realism that’s much needed — and in the case of Freeway comes from hard-fought person experience.
Although he’s experienced label issue that begun with the dissolution of Roc-A-Fella Records, State Property going on a hiatus as Beanie Siegel was convicted of federal weapons charges, Freeway has been busy as he’s released a couple of albums including 2007’s Free At Last, 2008’s White Van Music which had the North Philadelphia-based emcee collaborating with Jake One and Brother Ali and was released through renowned indie label Rhymesayers. 2010’s The Stimulus Package represented a major turning point in Freeway’s recording career as it was a return to the basics — one producer collaborating with one emcee on a project specifically meant to be cohesive collaborative vision, and it features guest spots from Beanie Siegel, Raekwon, Young Chris, Birdman, Bun-B, Latoiya Williams, Omilio Sparks and Mr. Porter.
Personally, it’s been some time since I’ve heard from Freeway — granted, as a blogger covering music from a variety of angles from all over the world, some things naturally will fall through the cracks; however, his latest single “Primates” is a collaboration with Dutch producer Big Ape and it’s a swaggering headbanger of a track that features the Philadelphia-based emcee spitting pure fire over a looped and stuttering horn and string sample and tweeter and woofer rocking boom-bap beats and actual scratching from Sweden’s DJ Devastate. Remember actual scratching on tracks? Whatever happened to that?
Of course the track is full of Freeway telling off wack emcees — reminding them that only is he dope, but that he’s probably their favorite rapper’s rapper as he uses a variety of cadences, flows throughout and a creative sense of inner and outer wordplay throughout, while reminding listeners that not only is he still here and fiery as ever, but that real hip-hop ain’t dead either.