Leslie Edward Pridgen (born 6 August 1978), 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 a Muslim. Like Rick Ross, his moniker is 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 was briefly signed to Cash Money Records a year and a half.
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 second 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 decision.
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 also reached gold sales of over 500,000 units.
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, group member Hydro released a mixtape dissing Freeway, distancing himself and the group from its founder.