Whenever an early ’00s Roc-A-Fella joint pops up on my Itunes I immediately get nostalgic and end up spending a good portion of my day shuffling through the endless amount of classics they dropped during that period. Just look at the lineup Dame Dash was putting on wax: Jay-Z, Memph Bleek, Cam’ron and The Diplomats, Beanie Siegel, the State Property collective, all backed by Just Blaze and early, hungry Kanye production. An unbelievable time for East Coast hip-hop, and we as fans certainly reaped the benefits with a strong effort dropping seemingly every month. Despite the tremendous amount of talent amassed at the Roc during this time, the MC that always stuck out to me was Philly native Freeway. The first time I ever heard Freeway was on his hit single “Flipside” and I was immediately drawn to his atypical flow and aggressive delivery, it was unlike anything else coming from the Roc stable at the time. Free has also been one of the most consistent MCs to put out music over the last decade. While many other artists seemed to fade into obscurity after the Roc disbanded in the mid ’00s, Free has hustled and dropped a strong catalog of albums including the standout Stimulus Package where he teamed up with Seattle beat maker Jake One.
Whenever Free, Beans, and Hov got together on a track the outcome was always tremendous. Their chemistry was unmatched, and I believe that stemmed from them fucking with each other on both a competitive and friendly level, and no song better illustrates that relationship than “What We Do”. Arguably the strongest collab effort from the trio, “What We Do” features each MC spitting bars attempting to outdo each other all with no chorus over fire Just Blaze production — the true essence of hip-hop. I recently watched the video for this track and it got me feeling very sentimental about the early Roc-A-Fella dynasty. With crews running around these days wearing skinny jeans and women’s clothing, it’s important to look back at the Timbs and black hoodie era and remember that hip-hop wasn’t always this soft. I have it on good authority that Freeway’s next project will leave people thirsty for more gutter music. Catch Just Blaze’s dig around the 2:10 mark.