Freeway/ DJ NoPhrillz “Best Things in Life Are Free” Mixtape

Originally written by yours truly for Illadelph Magazine this past November.  Special thanks to Ccelli of Exponent Entertainment for the look on this one…

FREEWAY/ DJ NOPHRILLZ – “The Best Things in Life are Free”

Rap game reality check of 2008: while overzealous nerds and hippies have slowly made a snot rag of the “underground hip-hop” stamp in the past several years, their jock-ish, crackrap counterparts are now doing the same to the mixtape movement.  For a brief moment, street tapes were once again the symbol of raw hiphop- a refuge for even the most high profile emcees to remove their music from pop culture’s demanding influences.  However, the commoditization and overproduction of ‘street’ mixes has dulled the subculture’s edge, dissolving most of the endless releases to a puddle of uninspired takes on over-used industry beats.  And with the onslaught of new school, alternative buzz-acts turning the heads of fans and tastemakers alike, a lot of the identically-packaged corner favorites are finding it even more difficult to make their way to eager fans.  Lucky for me, living in what’s arguably the most talented rap city in the country, I’ll always have easy access to material from the likes of Freeway and DJ NoPhrillz so that I’m not looking for a needle in a haystack…

Appropriately titled The Best Things in Life are Free, Philly Freezer’s new mixtape takes me back to a recent past where an artist’s latest underground mix was more anticipated than formal studio projects.  This won’t become an express, conceptual ‘masterpiece’ among bloggers, like that of Wale and Jay Electronica, but it doesn’t need to be.   It’s the stripped down nature of the CD, free from gimmicks and cosigns that make it so enjoyable.  Sometimes we want nothing more than cadences and delivery, and Free has so much flow that even his verses sound like hooks.  And while spoofing other artists’ tracks is the mixtape norm, it’s rare to see an emcee do it with more charisma and wit to where the original versions are almost unlistenable.   The intense, rapid fire jabs and aggressive concept twist that make up his own version of Game’s “Big Dreams” not only manifest a more exhilarating rendition, but place Freeway’s lyrical creativity on a pedestal among the peers he’s often grouped alongside.  Another clever parody is his ode to PA via the Swizz Beats/ Busta Rhymes classic “NY Shit,” which brilliantly marks where Philly proudly distinguishes itself from the neighboring metropolis.  Most importantly, the actual content is 99% Freeway, and he keeps the concise, 12-track mix unpredictable without any posse filler or excessive verse juggling from NoPhrillz- to the point rap music… *Plays the M.I.A. ‘Paper Planes’ remix*

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