Freeway Free At Last

It’s been four years since Philadelphia MC Freeway released his debut, Philadelphia Freeway, and in the interim, mix-tapes have made being absent from the game for an extended period of time a career death knell. Indeed, Freeway has been supplanted by Young Jeezy on the ad-lib front and Rick Ross (who appears on "Lights Get Low”) now owns hip-hop’s most recognisable beard. But it was a pilgrimage to Mecca, not the lack of mix-tape drops, that almost stopped Freeway from rapping, as the Muslim MC was forced to confront the fact that his rap career and his religion don’t make for easy bedfellows. It’s probably this underlying tension that makes Freeway’s trademarked frenzied delivery even more impassioned on this sophomore effort, if that’s at all possible. After reintroducing himself on the autobiographical "This Can’t Be Real,” Freeway gets down to business with high energy bangers like "Still Got Love,” "When They Remember” and "Roc-A-Fella Billionaires,” an infectious mic-tossing affair with Jay-Z in prime song-stealing form. The intensely soul-soaked tracks evoke the Roc-A-Fella sound’s peak at the beginning of the decade. While Freeway does a much better job on the mic than he did on his intermittently impressive debut, the musical score doesn’t always fit his unique MCing. Still, there’s plenty of material here that proves Freeway’s voice is one still worth hearing. (Roc-A-Fella/Universal)