Celebrating the 20th anniversary of 'Philly Freeway' at The Fillmore - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

As the lights lowered and the beat for “1-900-Hustler” began to play, the lights and visual effects popped, and Freeway exploded into his verse from the song. What a way to start his 20th anniversary show. The song featured on the Roc La Familia album was the first time many of us were introduced to Free. His lyrics were raw, and his flow was truly unique and would become the staples of his artistry. Freeway would a few years later release his debut album on February 25th, 2003; fast forward two decades and we are at The Fillmore in Philadelphia to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his first album, Philadelphia Freeway.

photo by Melissa Simpson

We were treated to an amazing night that quickly transported me back to my early 20s in hole-in-the-wall bars in North Philly. Freeway ran through hits from his first solo effort and many from his collaborations with other artists. Of course, the whole State Property Gang was on hand to perform a litany of their early 2000s bangers. Free gave all the members opportunities to shine performing songs like “Sun Don’t Shine,” “No Better Luv,” “Roc the Mic,” and more. He gave special love to Beanie Sigel, as he put it for really looking out for him and giving him the opportunity. It was an amazing show that hit all the nostalgic feelings I was looking for.

Freeway closed the night out with the two hit singles from his gold debut we were there to celebrate: the Peddi Crakk assisted “Flipside,” which had everyone doing their best interpretation of the Dame Dash dance, and then to end the night, Free performed what many of us from that generation consider an outright anthem, “What We Do.” He honestly didn’t need to actually say a word as the whole coward rapped with him and Beans for each lyric. You could literally feel a tremendous energy take over the room.

photo by Melissa Simpson

In the 20 years since his debut, Freeway has seen tremendous ups and downs. In the past few years, he’s gone through severe health issues and lost two children and a parent. But to be able to be present this Saturday with not only a packed house of fans but artists like Just Blaze and Jadakiss in the building to give an enduring figure in hip-hop his flowers was immensely impactful. Watching from afar, I can’t help but be inspired by Free and I hope our love for him was felt.

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