Philadelphia Freeway, came out in 2003. But the rapper doesn't let that deter him from releasing another excellent album. Here he chooses to address the changes head on, both the external (his tenuous relationship with Beanie Sigel; the fact that he's "back without a track from Kanye" or Just Blaze) and the internal (his realization that it's OK to cry about "grown-man shit"). And his straightforwardness allows him to create an honest record that still manages to rock.
A lot of this success is thanks to the cadre of producers behind him, from J.R. Rotem to Don Cannon to the Left Coast's Jake One, who make warm, soulful beats to lay behind the vocals. Nevertheless, it's still the MC himself who makes Free at Last really shine. With a rough-edged flow full of quick internal rhyme and plenty of metaphors, including one about Brandon Inge, Freeway weaves his way through the album's 14 solid tracks with a confidence that doesn't come across as cocky. Four years is a long time between albums, especially in the ephemeral rap world, but Freeway demonstrates that he's lost nothing in the wait and that he's as relevant and talented as he was back then.
Marisa Brown writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.