He survived the crumble of Roc-A-Fella with a successful solo career intact, established his own brand name, and gained the respect of fans from around the world. There isn't a thing you can tell Freeway about hard work. The Philadelphia native is on the verge of releasing his fourth solo album, Diamond In The Ruff , slated for a Nov. 27 release date. Thought most of his State Property brethren have fallen by the wayside, Free has kept his name hot through independent projects and mixtapes. Earlier this month, the bearded MC released a full length tape, Freedom of Speech, in conjunction with clothing company Rocksmith and online retailer Karmaloop. With just a few weeks before the album impacts retailers, VIBE sat down with the lone ranger to discuss his new music, working with Just Blaze again, State Property, meeting Nas after he dissed him, and more.
VIBE: What was your mindset like going into this joint? I know you were working on several mixtape at the same damn time.
Freeway: Yeah, I did so many. I'm always working, so I would do a record and put it to the side for the album, and that's how I've been working. I got a chance to work with Just Blaze again. We got a record on the album called "Early." I got three records from Jake One. You know we got crazy chemistry.
What other producers did you snatch up?
I did three records with Bink, who helped me create history during the Roc days. A couple tracks from Needlz, a couple new producers, my man Mike Jerz, one of my in house producers.
You’ve done countless mixtapes and have multiple albums under your belt but did you touch on anything you’ve never rapped about before?
I might have touched on some of the subjects but it’s from a different perspective. I got this record called "The Thirst," produced by Jake One, and the hook is like ‘We dying of thirst/trying to work.’ I think a lot of people can relate to it because there’s so many that feel stranded right now. They feel stuck. Honestly, you could have a billion dollars and still feel trapped, so that's where I was at when I did this record.
Feature-wise, I see you also kept it light.
Yeah, I just got Marsha Ambrosius, Wale Vivian Green, Neef, and Musiq Soulchild. I got this singer chick from Philly named Nikki Jean.
Where did you record most of the album because it seems like you’re way more tech savvy now? Did you do it at home a lot or in a real studio?
I got a studio that I work at in Philly. Me and my engineer Mike Jersey. I got a studio at home, but I just like to have the whole studio vibe how they used to do it.
Tell me how you reconnected with Just Blaze.
I don't remember exactly when but I had reached out to him and apologized for everything that happened with me getting upset with him because he wasn't on my Free At Last album. That was childish of me. It was actually egged on by people around me. I got nothing but respect for Just. He did a lot for me for my career; he opened up a lot of doors for me, and gave me a lot of good records. He gave me a lot of good situations like the Mariah Carey record.
That was on her album, too
Yeah, the Faith record he put me on that. He didn't have to put me on it. He gave it to them with my verse on it already. He presented a lot of opportunities for me
Bink, was also there when you were just getting started in rap. Do you remember what the studio session was like for "1-900-Hustler”?
I remember just hearing it and knowing I had to at least try to record something. I was there when they were working on it, so they gave me the OK to go write my verse. I took it home to write to it, and when I came back to lay my verse, Jay was like ‘This is your introduction to the world so I got to make it special.’ He was like ‘I got you! Trust me.’ He put the little elevator music right before my verse came on, so it was crazy.
That record really did change your career.
I remember my first time actually performing “1-900-Hustler.” It was a club in Philly called Pegasus. Beans and Bleek were doing a show and it just ended. My man’s cousin gave me the mic and was like ‘Do your verse off “1-900-Hustler” now’ and everybody was getting ready to leave off stage, but they went crazy when I spit my verse.
That reminds me, Jay put together a mini Roc-A-fella reunion at the Made In America festival with you and the Young Gunz. What was going through your head at that time?
It was great man, it was just beautiful. Just being able to rock out with Jay was a beautiful feeling because we didn't perform since the break up