Freeway Compares Def Jam Vs. Rhymesayers, Proudest Career Verse

Exclusive: DX and Philly Freezer got up in the studio to talk about going indie, the closing of Baseline Studios, and if Donovan McNabb belongs on the '10 Eagles.

On Tuesday, Freeway invited HipHopDX to his Philadelphia studio. In a secluded, third floor mixing suite, Free and his artist Hollywood were preparing to head to New York, moments after speaking with DX. The conversation took place a week before Freeway releases what he considers to be his third album, and his first independent project.

The Stimulus Package pairs the Philadelphia raspy voiced emcee with veteran Seattle producer Jake One. The duo has been working together for nearly three years, and split the geographic difference by finding a label home in Minneapolis' Rhymesayers Entertainment. After his two prior releases came in burgundy Def Jam jackets, Freeway reflected to DX about the benefits of working with the label owned by Slug, Ant and Brent "Siddiq" Sayers.

"Over at Def Jam, you know they had a lot of artists. I wasn't a main focus," Philly Freezer admitted. "I definitely had a good fan-base and everything - I'm a gold [selling] artist and everything, but I never went platinum, and there's a lot of [Def Jam artists] that go platinum. [The label] tends to cater to them." Joining a team responsible for releases from Atmosphere, Brother Ali and MF DOOM, Free notes contrast that suits him. "Over at [Rhymesayers Entertainment], it's different. I'm hands-on with the project and they're hands on with me. As you see, my phone keeps ringing, we're working, it just feels better. It feels like we're earning the right to put the album out and do good."

The decade-deep veteran was also asked about his proudest verse from a catalog that includes hundreds of songs. With a chuckle and a beard scratch, Freeway pointed to his 2003 hit single "What We Do." Elaborating, Free said, "It's so real. Everybody loves that record. I can't do a performance without doing that record. People go nuts, like 'Yo, you can't leave without doing [that]'"

After a quarter that exposed turmoils within the Roc-A-Fella Records fallout, Freeway took it a step further to share his proudest moment with the two Rap icons he's most often associated with. "Plus, how it came together was [unforgettable]. I was in Baseline Studios, we was workin'," Free continued. "When we used to be workin' up there, Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, everybody would be in different rooms doing different things. Jay was in the front room playing pool. When I was naming my verse, I was like 'Damn, it'd be a good idea if I could get Jay to say the "keep goin'",' 'cause at first I was gonna say it. I went and got him. He did it in the booth, and then just sat there listening to [my] verse."

According to Freeway, after hearing the angst-ridden verse from the State Property underboss, Jay-Z was unable to leave the Just Blaze session. "Ten minutes later, Jay's like, 'Yo, I got you, for real.' He went in the booth and did the verse." The final vocal component came together 48 hours later. "Beans heard about it. Two days later, he came up and put his verse on there. It was crazy. The chemistry was there."

With Just Blaze producing 10 of Philadelphia Freeway's 16 songs, Freeway drew parallels to his recent work with Jake One. "I miss working with Just. I never have had a chemistry with a producer, since Just, that [is like] the chemistry that I have right now with Jake One. Me and Bink! have a nice chemistry, but I haven't had a chemistry with a producer since Just."

That discussion led to Freeway being asked about last week's closing of the famed studio where Freeway and Just made hits together. "To tell you the truth, I just found out about [Baseline Studios closing]. I'm about to do an interview, and that wanted me to do it at a place that was memorable to me in New York. I thought of Baseline. I was just on the phone with the label, and they told me that Baseline's shut down." "I got a lot of good memories from Baseline. That's where I recorded the whole [Philadelphia Freeway]. That's where we did Juelz Santana's first album [From Me To U]. Jay-Z would be in one room, Dipset would be in another room. State Property in another room, but we'd all be doing something together. The vibe was there."

Wearing a black Philadelphia 76ers flat-brimmed cap, Freeway's sports opinion was requested, regarding Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb's future in the green uniform. With a hearty laugh, Free deduced, "I don't know, man. Part of me wants to say yeah. Part of me wants to say, 'It's time for change,' like Obama. Donovan's cool, but he gotta get on his shit. Know what I'm sayin'? He's gotta play that role that he's supposed to play."

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29 Comments

  • Change

    Fuck err body who got a problem with rhymesayers OR minneapolis! Southside Mpls in the buildin,freeway a monster.. i was just watchin his movie"what we do"I would sign with rhymesayers if the deal is lookin right..rhymesayers fuck with me!!!real minneapolis shit, i got talent look out for me im on the rise

  • Magnum Opus

    It still seems odd that a heavyweight like Free would sign with the clowns at Rhymesayers. DOOM is a beast, but everyone else there are lame emo rappers.

    • Filipe

      Seriously? Rhymesayers is prolly the best record label out there right now.Seriously there is more to hip-hop than Gangsta shit.

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  • ljabarr

    I'm from Philly and I must say. FUCK FREEWAY!!! I hate that whining ass voice and nappy ass beard. Cassidy tore dat ass up when they battled.

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  • Drucifer1983

    I'm from philly and I feel him on that Mcnabb comment.........I got love for him, but its Time for a new direction

    • ljabarr

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  • troublechild

    *breaks neck* coppin' this album FO SHO, and I'm not even a Free fan... if the rest of the album is as on point as that video, looks like we got a contender for album of the year. Aside from the lyrics and beats.... the packaging of that CD is defs on of the best I've ever seen in YEARS. GET 'EM FREE! EARLY! PHILLY WADDAP!

  • Squareone1

    Shit is going to be so fucking ill, look at the fucking packaging, I'm actually going to put down my Cash for this shit.

  • MightyMike 27

    WTF!! I want yall to listin to the first Vid again.. Tell me he's not trying to be 50 with his flow... Tell ME!! Why is he trying to rhyme like 50centT? He prolly didn't do it intentionally, but listen to it and notice it sounds like 50's flow... Anyway I can't believe RhymeSayers signed this guy. He's got skills but RhymesSayers has lost a little respect from me. If I hear this dude on a track with Atmosphere, shyt'll sound wak... I hope that doesn't happen...

  • It's Um

    wow that's a cool album cover, I wish more artist and label could be as creative, but then again that what makes rhymesayers more special.

    • MightyMike 27

      Maybe if more Artists and Labels were more creative with their album covers the music industry would sell more albums...

  • PLEASE DON'T SIGN TO A LABEL READ THIS!!

    The record industry is over. The music business will live on as a "sponsor" based model. Your favorite rapper will be signed to Pepsi or Doritos type corporations who will pay for their videos (same as commercials) and eliminate distribution costs by using the very trucks that deliver their soda and chips, to deliver an artist's cd. You will find rapper A's cd right next to the soda (company's product) display in your local grocery store. Whom ever is sponsored by Nike will have their cd's delivered to Nike stores and footlockers on the very trucks which bring in the tennis shoes. The cd will be displayed right next to the sneakers. Your local supermarket will eliminate the need for record stores and major distribution. Rickevirtual creator of the Sponsor Based Model. HIPHOP WILL LIVE!! Less distribution costs mean the artist finally will see a 25-50 percent split. Perfect

  • insanemacbeth

    "WHAT WE DO" is FREEWAY's best song, fa reel.

  • daveg

    that packaging is craazy. I know this album will be dope.

  • I'm at work and bored

    Free At last album was bangin'

  • Whiterthanmost

    Philly. Just a grounded & humble cat. And yeah, fool us once> shame on you donovan. Fool us eleven...

  • Boom Bye Yeah

    Might be "Line Em Up"... might be "1900 Hustler"... but this one is def a third, if not first. I might have to buy this album.

  • look man

    Freeway's best verse was, indeed, on that song.

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