Diamond In the Ruff
I suspect I had an immediate affinity for artist Freeway as we were born in the same year, we both have an infatuation with notorious drug trafficker “Freeway” Rick Ross (from whom Freeway’s rap moniker was derived) and I, too, once lost a freestyle battle hosted by Swiss Beatz by unanimous judges’ decision to Cassidy. Perhaps that last item is a lie; the freestyle battle I lost to Cassidy was totally unmoderated.
In any case, when it comes to music reviews, I must be disregard these facts, being an honest broker between the music and the people. It turns out I still have an affinity for Freeway, and for his fourth studio album, Diamond In the Ruff, which dropped on Babygrande Records one beautiful day this past November.
Freeway kicks it off right, with “Right Back,” featuring Marsha Ambrosius, which serves as an aspirational intro that rails against intolerance and urges recognizing the common ties between people. Freeway poses valid questions such as, “How can an educator burn books?” though the need for syllables may have exceeded the common sense of plain language with “we…all defecate and all bleed.” All is forgiven with Ambrosius’ contributions, though, as this melodic addition is the perfect complement to Freeway’s aggressive cadence.
“Greatness” opens songfully, before leaping into a muted beat under persistent rhymes. Some interesting synth use pops up in this song as well. Freeway paints a good character picture, dropping lyrics like, “I call her deep throat; she could swallow a remote,” among others.
Freeway continues the trend of unique openings to songs with “The Thirst” declaring, “I am still thirsty,” before referencing Gilligan’s Island in an unexpected delight. The artist’s excellent use of nautical simile, “Our flow sick as the waters when the tsunami’s around,” is equally impressive.
“Wonder Tape,” featuring Suzann Christine, maintains an interesting tempo and combination of vocals and staccato beats. Diamond in the Ruff then takes an abrupt turn, with the flat out crazy “No Doubt.” It’s impossible to describe the way this song sounds, though if you take my word and listen to it, you will be rewarded with spoils such as the lyrical, “I take your girl in; I don’t take your girl out.”
Things get ominous with “Early,” portions of which are reminiscent of a military cadence. Oddly the following “Ghetto Streets” twists the album yet again, backed by a sped up smooth jazz track. By now the album’s complexity has become apparent.
The synth returns on “Numbers,” featuring Neef Buck, mixing nicely with a drum machine. Similarly, Nikki Jean’s sultry accompaniment on “Sweet Temptation,” featuring Nikki Jean shows off Freeway’s prowess when selecting female vocalists. This stands in sharp contrast to the low tones of “Money is My Medicine,” once again highlighting the diversity present in Diamond In the Ruff.
Closing it all out with “Lil Mama,” Freeway ends Diamond In the Ruff on an exceptionally high note. With this album, Freeway has managed to pull off one of the most versatile releases of the year without compromising cohesion or caliber.