I must admit, I was never a Freeway fan. Like many listeners, I found his grunts to be too annoying and distracting. Free is still trying to figure out how to make his boa constrictor flow work for him, but On Free At Last, this North Philly lyricist raps as if his life depends on the music.
The Sound of Freedom
Aside from his grunt-like flow which will probably make him an effective alarm clock, Free was just like any other Jay-Z disciple, right? Wrong. Eager to avoid being lumped up with the rest of the "just average" rappers, Freeway comes out swinging on his second go-round.
Free gives us a bit of personal history on the brilliant "This Can't Be Real," with Marsha Ambrosius riding shot gun. Later, he rails against ROC allies Just Blaze and Kanye West for ignoring him when he needed their Midas touch on his album. No one is spared the Free's fury, as he continues to spit torrents of angry words at impostors on the title track. "They jackin' my ad libs, that ain't me. See them n***as with big beards, that ain't me." General consensus is that the ad lib jab was aimed at Young Jeezy, and if Rick Ross wasn't featured on "Lights Get Low," the streets would be buzzing about the "big beard" line too.
The few guests who had no problem chirping back when Free needed help are all heavyweights. Fortunately, they do more than just tag their recognizable names next to the songs. Busta Rhymes joins the newest member of the Roc-A-Fella family Jadakiss for an energetic showing on "Walk With Me." Free and Jay-Z daydream about stacking up Oprah-level wealth on the anthemic "Roc Billionaires." The best part is that 50 Cent, who shares executive producer credits with Jay, limits his sing-song cameo to the album's radio single, "Take It to the Top."
In the absence of Kanyeezy and Just Bleezy, there's still plenty of good music to accentuate Free's cerebral lyrics. Jake One delivers a thumping beat on "It's Over," while Free manages to put his unque voice to good use on the Chad Hamilton-laced "Reppin' the Streets." On the latter, dashing drums push up against Free's raspy grunts, as he reflects on his environment. On the flip side, G-Unit's favorite producer J R Rotem disappoints with his syrupy contribution on "Take It to The Top," which features 50 Cent. Simply put, Free's grimy grunts aren't built for fruity beats.
Bottom Line on Free At Last
Overall, Free At Last is one of the most consistent albums to emerge from the Roc-A-Fella camp lately. Like a prisoner unshackled, he demonstrates his range as an artist, and gracefully explores his vulnerabilities. Free At Last will leave all non-believers shaking their heads in disbelief. Early!
- "It's Over"
- "Reppin' the Streets"
- "When They Remember"