Review Summary: So filled with soul he might just burst, Freeway makes average rap interesting.
The Roc is dead. It’s been dead since Jay came back from his ‘retirement’, and all of the artists other than Kanye and Jay have been derailed from their former statuses and shoved back into the underground. Now, for some of these artists, this is a good thing, like the amateur Memphis Bleek and Young Gunz, but this fall came just as two of Roc’s best non Jay rappers (Beanie Sigel and Freeway) were just coming into their own. Even so, Beans and Freeway are very different artists. Although they both exhibit extreme passion of their music, Beans drenches his music in depressing moods and dark street tales, while Freeway’s passion is exhibited in the way he raps, his grunting, his recycling of notable rap lines, and his big beards embodies his music with this persona of someone who raps like he’s going to die tomorrow. Despite these depleting resources of the Roc, Freeway managed to produce an excellent rap album, with 2007’s Free At Last
, and does so without any production from Kanye or Just Blaze.
Although former relations seemed to have been cut before this album’s creation even began, new ones begin on Free At Last
, some more fortunate than others. The warping, big booming anthem of Jake One’s “It’s Over” is one that works perfectly towards Freeway’s advantage, with Jake creating a larger than life, absolutely theatric boom that’s just big enough for Freeway’s rap preaching. His collaboration with Scarface on the looped soul epic “Baby Don’t Do It” is a nice contrast between characters, with Freeway’s resonating thunderous flow mixing in with Scarface’s relaxed flow of an experienced man in the game. Needless to say though, Freeway doesn’t pick the best group of new collaborators to be around either. Freeway puts on his G-Unit badge for a couple of minutes on the embarrassing 50-featured dance track “Take It to The Top” and the oddly uninspired graveyard bounce of “Spit That ***”, all the while collaborating with the even flabbier Rick Ross on beard-of-the-month song “Lights Get Low”.
Even so, Freeway still manages to succeed on a production level, even with old friends. “This Can’t Be Real” is sort of like Freeway’s cover of Beans 2005 song of the year in “Throw It In The Air”, although instead of the solemn horn composition of “Throw It In The Air”, “This Can’t Be Real” is an organic, peaceful groove for Free to get sentimental over. “Roc A Fella Billionaires” gets rid of any rumors that Free has harsh feelings toward Jay, with the two sounding just peachy with each other over a booming soul banger. Although neither Kanye or Just Blaze make an appearance on Free At Last
, Roc protégé Bink manages to create beats that would’ve topped both of them. Bink produces two tracks on the album, and with “When They Remember” he takes a soul sample and weaves it into larger-than-life epic, while “Still Got Love” sports his soul sampling tendencies with a danceable vibe, hand claps, and zazzy organs and Freeway just eats it up.
Throughout the record, Freeway just does him, and that’s all listeners can ask for. Although filler riddles what could be the last Roc-A-Fella classic, Freeway still manages to punish the listeners with his passion, and puts producers around him that make tracks almost theatrical as him. Hearing him rap is like him fighting against the beat, it’s a real experience. His flow is a bit cookie cutter, his lyrics don’t extend beyond average too much, but his passion cannot be overlooked, and that is what makes Free At Last
truly worth a listen.