Philadelphia Freeway

Artist: FreewayTitle: Philadelphia FreewayRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: aqua boogie

On the opening track to his debut album, Philadelphia Freeway, Philadelphia bred mc Freeway kicks, “I focus and aim, listen to bore, one verse can fuck up the game…” Maybe too ambitious but he did grab listener’s attentions on Jay Z’s “1-900 Hustler” when he basically co-signed Guru of Gang Starr’s claim that it’s “mostly the voice.” His vocals are emotional fits, bursting from his lips in a high pitched shrill you will either love or hate after repeated listening. The irony is that what makes him unique has been the bane of his still young career. The question, even before he signed to Roc-a-Fella Reocrds, has always been can he keep your attention for an entire album’s worth of material? Philadelphia Freeway is finally here but after being on again, off again more times than a Tyson bout, the results are mixed.

The lead single “What We Do” featuring Jay Z and Beanie Sigel set high expectations for the albums release. The frenetically paced tracked and soul vocal loop set the perfect ambiance for the trifecta’s lyrical gymnastics. The rest of the album manages to come through with other keepers including the tumbling drum kicks that set the stage for Freeway to get down with another Philly mc and Roc-a-Fella signee Peedi Crack on the raucous “Flipside.” The beat is courtesy of Just Blaze who produces eleven of the albums sixteen tracks. Mr. Blaze’s beats at times begin to wane but additional reinforcements are provided by other established production colleagues. Obese reverb effects anchor the Bink! produced “All My Life” featuring Nate Dogg and Kanye West delivers once again on “Turn Out The Lights (Freewest)” where Freeway codifies, you guessed it, more reformed drug dealer and thug posturing tales over rumbling bass, guitar riffs and some congas for extra funk.

Freeways content never strays too far from glorified depictions of illicit drug activity and the flossing being a card carrying member of Roc La Familia supposedly entails. He is at his best when his musical accompaniment matches the passion and intensity he brings to every verse like on the pounding synths and kicks of “Don’t Cross the Line” featuring Faith Evans or the somber keys of the autobiographical “Victim of the Ghetto”

Freeway is an above average mc and it would have been nice to see him hold mc duties for self more often, as most of the albums songs feature guest mc’s that don’t merit much attention besides being signed to Roc-A-Fella. The formulaic “On My Own” featuring Nelly is just unnecessary and “Alright” featuring Roc-a-Crooner Allen Anthony is just too R&B. However, Freeway transports us a solid album and dismissing him solely due to that voice is the mark of a narcoleptic hip-hop fan.