Philadelphia Freeway 2

(Real Talk Ent.; 2009)

By Colin McGowan | 5 June 2009

Freeway allocates a lot of ferocious whine to letting us know he spends a great deal of time in the kitchen, cooking up cakes inappropriate for your niece’s fourth birthday. He got that crack, basically, and it’s going to make you go dumb. Month of Madness (2008) proved this pretty unequivocally, benefiting from consistently great production work and the debut of roughly 26 flows 99% of us didn’t know Free possessed. Following the Lil Wayne model of working the general public into a frenzy with mixtapes and features (Freezer was hopping on a lot of remixes this past winter) in order to produce salivation over a forthcoming panoramic, album-length statement seems a solid strategy in this climate, but Free seems to have fudged a few components of the gameplan.

Namely, it’s good to let more than three people know you’re releasing your album. Which isn’t to say Free is aiming for or can attain any sort of Weezy-like status, but Month of Madness felt like the commencement of an ascension—the arrival of another studio rat who might provide us with an exhaustive torrent of heaters through the foreseeable future. In wake of this new stumble, it currently towers above the rest of Free’s discography (good in its own right): two hours of unrelenting, forceful work. Maybe qualifying Philadelphia Freeway 2 as a stumble is harsh, but it’s a frustratingly minor release that feels like a stopgap between its prequel and Free At Last (2007). That is, it would’ve been only mildly satiating before anyone was aware of the holy hell Freeway was capable of unleashing.

Perhaps put more accurately: the unholy hell Freeway is capable of explaining. “Crack Rap,” which contains a verse that barely rhymes at all, is further proof that when Free draws upon the muddy well of his own experiences—here vividly recounting the affliction of having a crackhead uncle while peddling the stuff himself—he’s unstoppable. It’s an ugly glut of conflicting emotions tied together by a glassy-eyed sense of duty, leavened only by the ethereal tones that bathe the beat’s insistent clack.

There’s little else insistent here, though. With the exception of “Murda Muzic,” Freeway sounds uninspired, toying with his flow here and there but never really turning it loose, throwing half-hearted lyrical jabs instead of punches. He’s even besmirching his ear’s reputation. The production suffers at the hands of an approach that leans too heavily on a template of glossy pap above all else, sensationalism that strains like a teenage boy on prom night, ultimately blowing out its tires.

For the Freeway apologist, there is solace, however. He’s tagged this latest release as a “street album,” which is code for “I had some tracks lying around the studio,” and has promised a full-length later this year with Jake One, as well as Freedom of Speech, which will supposedly now come out on Cash Money. It’s typical bullshit, announcing the release of two projects before the completion of either (Blueprint 3 and LupEND soon, right?), but Freeway does seem to have an unwavering work ethic. The question Philadelphia Freeway‘s bastard stepbrother poses, though, is whether his frantic pace is sustainable.