|Next Project:||Free At Last|
|Twitter:||Freeway on Twitter|
Last heard from in 2003 when his debut album, “Philadelphia Freeway,” hit store shelves, the Muslim rapper has returned to the scene and is eying November 20th as the release date for his sophomore surprise, Free At Last.
Despite various legal issues (which included jail time) and the death of the Roc-A-Fella dynasty, Freeway has managed to concoct what he feels is the best work of his career.
During an interview with DJBooth’s DJ “Z,” Free discusses the current state of the R.O.C., what separates him from the “paper gangsters” of the industry and whose beard doesn’t measure up when compared to the ‘original.’
Listen to the Interview
Freeway Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on ya’ll? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a big spendin’ Roc-A-Fella billionaire who will drop his brand new album, “Free At Last,” on November 20th. Please welcome Freeway – how you doin’?
Freeway: Holla at your boy, the Roc is in the booth, it’s going down.
DJ Booth: Freeway, how big of a spender are you?
Freeway: Well, you know, I get it in. I might be a little overboard with it but I try to conserve it.
DJ Booth: Okay, so what purchases do you spend the most money on?
Freeway: Probably like jewelry, cars, stuff like that. But I got a couple businesses myself. I got a rim shop, Philadelphia Freeway Custom Motor Sports, where I can pimp your ride. I got my own credit card, it’s a pre-paid debit card, it come with ten dollars on it already and you can put more money on it yourself. It’s called the Freeway Card. You can log on and get that from http://www.thefreewaycard.com. I try to generate enough revenue so I can do my thing.
DJ Booth: Everybody knows Freeway the rapper – they need to know Freeway the entrepreneur, obviously.
Freeway: Yes sir.
DJ Booth: New album, “Free At Last,”’ is being executive co-produced by Jay-Z and 50 Cent – explain what exactly an executive producer does for a project.
Freeway: An executive producer oversees the project, gives input, bring in their material, they give me their feedback, and of course they’re on the album as well, and they help market and promote it.
DJ Booth: How would you compare and contrast their executive production styles?
Freeway: Me and Fif went in, got what we could get out of it, came up with some crazy stuff. Then once Jay started with me and heard what me and Fif did, [we] went in and did what we did. Then I finished everything up, and then brought the album to them, and they was feelin’ it, so we rockin!
DJ Booth: Was there ever a point where you reached a fork in the road, after receiving opposite advice from one or the other and you didn’t know which direction to go in?
Freeway: No, I actually didn’t have that problem, because the majority of the work I did myself – they just let me do me, and then I came to them with ideas and concepts that I wanted to do. We rock and roll with it.
DJ Booth: The album is set to drop, like I mentioned earlier, on November 20th. But I know you’ve been working on this project for quite some time. What did it take for the ball to get rolling so that you could get a solidified drop date?
Freeway: Well, you know there’s a lot going on with the whole breakup and everything, with Roc-A-Fella. So basically it just took me to feel that it was a comfortable time for me to really drop the album and get the ball rolling. And then once I did the thing with Fif, that brought a little more excitement to the table, so we started rocking.
DJ Booth: During its heyday, Roc-A-Fella was often described by Dame Dash and various other members as both a family and an army. Since the breakup of the big shots, how would you describe the state of the label now, and all of its members?
Freeway: It is what it is. I still got a family relationship with Jay. Me and Dame still cool, me and Big still cool. But at the end of the day, man, it is what it is – we tryin’ to get it back where it was.
DJ Booth: What’s gonna be that first step? How are you going to get it back?
Freeway: With projects like “Roc-A-Fella Billionaires” with me and Jay –that’s that Roc-A-Fella feel, that’s that music that you all love. Jay droppin’ an album November 6th, I’m coming the 20th, then Bean’s comin’ the 11th, so hopefully the three releases will impact the music game. Also Kanye just dropped his album and did real good, and that’s Roc-A-Fella too. So hopefully the impact of the three albums hits the music business and gives you all that Roc-A-Fella feel that you all love and then maybe we can do a Dynasty 2 or something like that.
DJ Booth: That would be nice. Let’s talk about some cuts on the album. The Godfather theme is sampled on the cut, “Paper Gangsters.” In it, you spit the line, “I’m real and you frontin’.” So, Freeway, what separates you from the others?
Freeway: Well, I’m a reality rapper – I talk about things that really go down in the hood, things that I see, and things that I experience firsthand. A lot of people be floggin’ n’ they be talkin’ about stuff they don’t know what they talkin’ about, so that’s the difference.
DJ Booth: The song “Step Back,” produced by Don Cannon, featuring Lil’ Wayne – if you were able to step back from one decision that you’ve made, since your career started, what would you change?
Freeway: I don’t think I’d change anything, ‘cause you gotta go through experiences for it to be life. Everything that I’ve been through up to this day defines who I am, so I don’t think I’d change nothing. I’ll just keep movin’ along and try to make smarter decisions. If I made a decision that was messed up or whatever, I just try to make a smarter decision the next time around.
DJ Booth: I spoke with your boy, Beanie Sigel, earlier this month and he said that the time that he spent in jail and on house arrest allowed him to clear his head. In 2000 you had your own legal issues and you were arrested. Did the time that you did do the same thing for you and your career?
Freeway: Basically it did, ‘cause it really made me make that transition from the streets to the music. ‘Cause when I got incarcerated, I’m like, “Man, this is not for me.” I gots to be out in the streets, I gots to do what I have to do. I just had two kids born, four months apart and had a lot of responsibility. And luckily I had people like Beanie Sigel in my corner, so once I got out and I got off house arrest, I went straight to the studio, was recording “The Dynasty.” Got on “1-900-Hustler,” and turned my life around.
DJ Booth: And the rest is history… You and Beans both drop albums, like you mentioned, within a month of one another. Are either of you featured on the other’s project?
Freeway: We just were in the studio, we’ve been doin’ a lot of stuff like within the past two weeks, so we’re gonna try to squeeze something from the stuff we did on each of our albums. So hopefully we can work it out before everybody wrap up.
DJ Booth: Last I spoke with Rick Ross, a label mate of yours, he claimed that he had the best beard in the industry. Are you willing to award him that honor?
Freeway: [laughter] I got the original beard!
DJ Booth: So you’re saying that you take the cake?
Freeway: I’m the originator. I’m Muslim, so it’s actually an attribute of a Muslim. It’s called a Sunni and it’s an attribute of a Muslim. Like, if you’re Muslim, that’s one of the things you should do, is let your beard grow. That’s what the Prophet Mohammad did. So I do it for that, I don’t do it for fashion. But, I brought it to the game, I was the first rapper, so it is what it is. Ross, my man, he can say what he wants, but he know.
DJ Booth: Regarding your religious traditions, are you allowed to groom the beard or braid it, or does it have to be just what it is?
Freeway: It is what it is – I let it grow. I mean, I shape it up. I don’t normally trim it, but I shape the outside up. I line it up, keep it groomed, shampoo it, wash it, grease it up.
DJ Booth: Free, the title of the album is a pretty bold proclamation. What are you now free from?
Freeway: Well, it has a lot of meanings. The main meaning is “Free At Last,” meaning, it’s been like four years since I dropped an album, so “At last, Free is dropping an album.” I know the streets been missin’ it, I know they need it, been a lot of speculations, a lot of things going on with me. So, “Free At Last,” at last I’m here to answer all your questions. Y’all gonna love the music – I’m bringin’ back that street, Roc-A-Fella feel that you all know and love!
DJ Booth: Like you said, four years in between releases. Where do you go from here? Where does your career go?
Freeway: Man, I just keep it moving, you know what I’m saying? Hopefully the fans will love and embrace the music, and I just keep it moving. I got a movie coming, “What We Do” the movie, written and directed by Tron Anderson – that’s the guy that did “State Property.”
DJ Booth: Free, give everybody a website, a Myspace page so they can find out more about what you got going on, which is the release of your brand new album, “Free At Last,” on November the 20th.
Freeway: Y’all can go to myspace.com/freeway. Y’all can see the trailer to my movie, y’all got a link to my credit card, y’all can hear all the new songs and everything. Then y’all can go to freewayatlast.com for any updates, backstage footage – whatever you need to see. We update that weekly, that’s my official website. Holla at your boy. It’s the Roc for life, “Free At Last” November 20th.
DJ Booth: I wish you nothing but the best of luck, and of course thank you for taking the time and hangin’ out in the DJ Booth with me.
Freeway: Anytime, man. I appreciate it!