Diamond in the Ruff

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Still grinding after ten years in the game, the former Roc-a-Fella artist continues to hustle after moving from Rhymesayers to the independent N.Y.C. label Babygrande Records. For his fourth album, Leslie Pridgen, better known as Freeway, collaborates with former producers Just Blaze and Jake One on some of the best cuts on the record, including the hard-hitting old-school flashback “Early,” and the dreamy ode to the perfect girl, “True,” which features a guest spot by Wale. Switching to a smaller label is generally not a sign of good fortune in the rap world, but Freeway continues to be interesting enough with his gruff, dexterous style of storytelling to make a solid impact as an underground artist. Even when the production fails to inspire, he holds up his end of the bargain on the mike.

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