Thursday, December 6, 2007

Free at Last

Posted on Thu, Dec 6, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Free at Last
Label: Roc-a-Fella
Length: LP
Media: CD
Format: Album
WorkNameSort: Free at Last
On the surface, Freeway is a scary dude. His sore-throated growl peaks somewhere near terrifying and hits its stride at punching you in the face. Physically, his extra layer of East Coast “winter coat” blubber is fiercely intimidating. When he raps about “constantly toting a pistol,” it’s not just believable, it’s liable to result in a grand jury indictment. Even the shag of his hipster-friendly beard looks like blood-dripping stalactites. And yet on his new album, Free at Last, the Philadelphia MC sounds like a heartbroken bear cub. His record label’s return to form (Jay-Z, Kanye) has been the big hip-hop story of 2007, yet Roc-a-Fella and their parents at Def Jam seem to have overlooked their baby cub’s sophomore release completely. Freeway’s debut, 2003’s Philadelphia Freeway, was packed with killer guest appearances and produced almost entirely by super-producer Just Blaze, but Free at Last doesn’t even have a proper music video. Even more striking is that the beat-’em-up anthems of his debut have been replaced by remorseful, almost solemn production that juxtaposes everything that Freeway has ever represented. “Spit That Shit” even has shades of “One (Is the Loneliest Number)” in its piano pounces. Ain’t nothing scarier in hip-hop than vulnerability.

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