Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
Philadelphia's neo-soul explosion of the past few years may have some music fans thinking that every Philadelphia musician is about that particular genre. Not so. The city's hardcore rap traditions are alive and well with Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam artist Freeway, who makes his debut Feb. 25 with "Philadelphia Freeway."
Like many of today's up-and-coming MCs, Freeway built his reputation with guest appearances. "Rock the Mic," his collaboration with fellow Philadelphian and Roc-a-Fella recording artist Beanie Sigel, served as his introduction to a national audience. The single peaked at No. 16 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.
"We did that down in Miami," Freeway says of the collaboration. "We were just doing songs. Nobody knew that that was going to be like that. When it started to blow up, it was crazy. I appreciated that. It wasn't anything special. I heard the beat, we made a hook to it, I laid my rhymes, and Beans heard it and wanted to get on it, so we made it happen."
Freeway followed the success of "Rock the Mic" with his own lead single, "Line 'Em Up." Featuring Roc-a-Fella labelmate Young Chris, the single peaked at No. 86 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.
"I just heard the beat, and it came to me-'Line 'em up. Shut 'em down,'" Freeway says. "From there, I ran with the concept. Then Young Chris came to the studio and he was feeling it, so I let him get on."
Despite the successful collaborations, Freeway is quick to note that there is more to his debut set than special-guest pairings. "The majority of my album is me vibing. Everybody fell back, and they let me do me. The collaborations are when cats were there with me and feeling me."
With the success of such Roc-a-Fella artists as Beanie Sigel, DJ Clue, Cam'ron, and Jay-Z, Freeway believes he is now in a position to follow in their footsteps. "It's been crazy," he says. "It's what I've always wanted-a chance to get a position and do my thing. I've learned a lot. I've seen a lot, and I've been a lot of places."
The rapper says those experiences have served as the inspiration for Philadelphia Freeway. "It's a breath of fresh air," he says of the set. "It's something out of the ordinary. It's not the normal album that you would hear from a cat. It's the same shit, but I'm bringing it totally different."
Excerpted from the Feb. 8, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.
For information on ordering a copy of the issue, click here.