For over a decade, Freeway has been Philadelphia's mouthpiece for chronicling the city's balance of blue-collar work ethics and vigilant street-corner credos, within one of the world's most diverse and storied backdrops. Born Leslie Pridgen, he carries that same range of character and experience into his life as a Muslim Man in America who has a unique story to tell. With ties to and years lived in North and West Philadelphia, Freeway emerged in the late '90s, both as a street figure and as a battle-tested block rapper, part of both Ice City and the would-be stars of State Property.
The local favorite was mentored under the careful and critical eye of Beanie Sigel, who helped wave the S.P. flag in the mainstream. A distinct voice and energy within his group, Free would earn the highly-coveted endorsement of Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Jay-Z at a Las Vegas boxing match. An on-the-spot audition landed Freeway an integral role in one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful label rosters in music history. After standout features on Beanie Sigel’s “Think It’s A Game” and Jay-Z’s “1-900-HUSTLER” posse cut, Freeway was a critical role-player within State Property’s debut album, namely on Philadelphia classic, “Roc Da Mic.” This fanfare and intrigue gave the raspy-voiced sensation the go-ahead on release 2003's Philadelphia Freeway, a literal gold standard in image-driven street rap, with a soulful message and sound. The album, featuring involvement from Kanye West, Just Blaze and Mariah Carey yielded the timeless outcry, “What We Do” with Free’s mentors Jay and Beanz.
Like his labelmates, Freeway’s momentum was slowed temporarily by the turmoil within his label. With a sophomore State Property project released, Free At Last, the emcee’s second solo did not arrive until late 2007. With extensive involvement from friend 50 Cent, as well as Jay-Z, the album maintained Free’s reputation for quality and consistency. One of the producers of street single “It’s Over,” Jake One, developed a powerful relationship with his emcee counterpart.
With Jay-Z having left his president’s post at Def Jam, Freeway defined 2009 with his Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. Always conscious of religious and social values in his lyrics, the block-embraced and streets-raised Free partnered with independent stalwart Rhymesayers Entertainment. There, he and Jake One released the cleverly-packaged, Stimulus Package. At the height of the U.S. recession, the rapper associated with the Roc wealth shed his chains for personal revelations in showing his range, all backed by colorfully dusty Jake One tracks. After dedicating a few years as a devoted father, working within his community, and touring, Freeway released his fourth studio album, Diamond In The Ruff, in 2012. Reunited with the sounds of Just Blaze, Bink!, as well as a heavy hand from Jake, the veteran still finds ways to freshen his message with morality, intelligence, and the pulse of the streets.
2014 was the year of Freeway’s evolution, as he brought his signature somersaults-on-the-beat flow to the Alternative/EDM world on the Broken Ankles collaboration EP with sample maestro Gregg Gillis a.k.a. Girl Talk. He brought his familiar, high-energy sets to some of the country’s premiere festival stages, including Coachella, Made In America, and SXSW. Freeway triumphantly declared October as the annual “ROCTOBER” celebration, after he helped to organize a “Roc Reloaded Reunion” show in his hometown, featuring Memphis Bleek, Young Chris, and Neef Buck, followed by a well received speaking series in the UK. And, the calls for collaborations kept coming non-stop – including the Highway Robbery LP with his close friend, the late, great Oakland rapper The Jacka.
Today, Freeway still carries the diamond and maintains his legacy as one of Hip Hop’s most distinct and consistent voices. 2015 marks the release of his Free Will album featuring MC greats like Black Thought and newcomers like Scholito, along with appearances at Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival and countless other stages across the country. He’s also carving his lane as an entrepreneur and man of the people – his Freeway’s Best Beard Cream product line is becoming a fast favorite among bearded men. Freeway also donates a great deal of his time to helping advance the causes of youth empowerment and re-entry services in his hometown of Philly, and in Baltimore and beyond.