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Leslie Edward Pridgen, better known by his stage name Freeway, is an American rapper. Best known for his tenure on Roc-A-Fella Records and his affiliation with Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel, he is recognized by his high-pitched delivery (akin to that of Ghostface Killah) and for the long beard he keeps due to his Muslim faith. His moniker is not derived from the name of the infamous drug trafficker "Freeway" Ricky Ross. He was a member of the rap group Ice City, is a member of the rap group State Property and recently signed to Cash Money Records.

Early career

Signing to Roc-A-Fella

Born Leslie Pridgen, Freeway began his career by participating in freestyle battles in his high school and met fellow Philadelphia native Beanie Sigel while rapping on stage at a hometown nightclub. Not long after being signed to Roc-A-Fella Records, Sigel put in a word for Freeway, who made his first appearance on The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, on the track "1-900-Hustler" with Beanie, Jay-Z and Memphis Bleek. After the appearance, Jay-Z signed him to a deal; he was featured on "Think it's a Game," also alongside Jay-Z, on Beanie's sophomore album The Reason.

In 2001, he underwent a notorious freestyle battle with then-unsigned rapper Cassidy, hosted by Swizz Beatz and lost with a unanimous judges descision.

Philadelphia Freeway

On February 25, 2003, Freeway released his debut album, Philadelphia Freeway. The album was produced primarily by Roc-A-Fella-affiliated beatsmiths Just Blaze, Bink!, and Kanye West and featured a large number of Roc-A-Fella rappers. Many of them also hailed from Philadelphia, and were soon compiled into the group State Property led by Freeway and Beanie Sigel. The album had two singles, the biggest hits of Freeway's career thus far: "What We Do," Featuring Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel, for which a video was released showcasing most of the Roc's roster at the time, and "Flipside," featuring State Property member Peedi Crakk; both records were produced by Just Blaze. The album achieved Gold status, selling around 500,000 units.

State Property Problems, Ice City & 2nd Album

After Jay-Z's "retirement" album and the uncertainty over what direction the label was headed, Beanie Sigel was convicted and jailed on a charge of attempted murder. Relations between Beanie Sigel and State Property soured after the incarceration of Sigel, and State Property essentially broke up, with Sigel stating he was unsure he would work with them again. Over the next few years, members of the group—most notably Freeway and Sigel themselves—slowly began collaborating once again, though members such as Oschino and Peedi Crakk fell out of the loop. During this time, with his crew and label in turmoil, Freeway had a spiritual crisis that almost caused him to leave the rap game altogether for his Muslim faith.

With uncertainty in the air, Freeway put together another Philadelphia-based crew called Ice City, named after their neighborhood North Philly. While active, the group consisted of Face Money, Bars and Hydro, with Freeway playing a major mentoring role. Their debut album, Welcome to the Hood, was released under Sure Shot Recordings, but received little attention. Subsequently, groupmember Hydro released a mixtape dissing Freeway, distancing himself and the group from its founder.

Free At Last

In response to his crisis of faith, Freeway went on hiatus for a few years, making his Hajj, a journey to the holy city of Meccamarker, required by every Muslim at least once in his or her lifetime if he or she is able to. Upon his return, Yep Freeway recorded his second album Free at Last, which was released on November 20, 2007.Jay-Z and 50 Cent were both set to co-executive produce the album; while both were featured, the project ended up solely a Roc-A-Fella release, with 50 giving up his co-executive producer's role. The first single was "Roc-A-Fella Billionaires," featuring Jay-Z, which leaked to the internet; the second single, and first official single, was "Lights Get Low" featuring Rick Ross and Dre of the production team Cool & Dre.

As the album featured no production from either Kanye West or Just Blaze, who together produced the lion's share of his debut, Freeway lashed out at them in his lyrics, generating rumors that he and his former producers had unresolved differences. After the album's release, Freeway went on record to clarify his comments, saying he had no real animosity towards them and that he had only been speaking his mind. The album eventually sold over 100,000.

Career After Roc-A-Fella

Month of Madness

In 2008, Freeway initiated what he called the Month of Madness, releasing a song a day for the month of December. The songs, featuring input from Erick Sermon, Don Cannon,Cardiak, Jake One, Oddisee and others, were later compiled into a mixtape. 2009 brought an announcement that he would be working on his third album amidst his regrets over hearing Jay-Z had stepped down as Def Jam president.. Shortly, the rapper announced his release from Def Jam and that his next album would be entitled The Stimulus Package, produced by Jake One.

Philadelphia Freeway 2

A project entitled Philadelphia Freeway 2 hit stores in 2009. The first single, "Finally Free," was released on iTunes on April 14, 2009. Philadelphia Freeway 2 was released under the independent label Real Talk Ent. on May 19, 2009.

Signing with Cash Money

In June of 2009, Freeway confirmed a deal with Cash Money Records, and the start of his own label, Free Money. Since this time he has put out a few Mixtape tracks speaking of the new deal, including "Touchdown" & "All Night Long". Freeway, speaking on his new label deal and relationship with Jay-Z.

"I been f*cking with Cash Money," he said in an interview. "You know, me and Wayne did a joint for the last album, but we couldn't get the sh*t cleared in time and all that. We just throwing around some ideas. And I'm launching a label, Free Money, so what better home for it...My man Ceelo, he worked with Baby, so he really basically connected us like that. But, right now everything is still in preliminary...It's still Roc-A-Fella for life. That's something that's not going to leave me...Everything still preliminary. Jay give me his blessing with whatever I want to do. Jay want to see n*ggas making moves."





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