The fire was burning, the water was coming down from the skies in buckets and it had no effect on team Roc whatsoever. They couldn't stop laughing.
"Yeah, Free," a smiling Jay-Z spouted out to his Philly affiliate, as Freeway, Jigga and Beanie Sigel were standing in the middle of the Brooklyn Navy Yard on the set of Free's video for "What We Do."
"The concept of the song is self-explanatory," Freeway explained earlier in the day. "There's a lot of things people do in their life that they know is not right, but they gotta do what they gotta do to survive. They gotta make ends meet. The video is based on the HBO show 'The Wire.' We've got some characters from the show in the video. It's going to be crazy."
Produced by Just Blaze, "What We Do" has been heavily rotated in the streets for months, adding to Free's already strong buzz, but the Philly native still hasn't dropped his long-talked-about debut. The fans want to know what's taking so long for his delayed Philadelphia Freeway album.
"It's a lot of different things going on. My label felt is was better for me to push it back for the right time," said Free, who appears on Jay's Blueprint 2 as well as the upcoming Roc-A-Fella Dream Team LP and Mariah Carey's Charmbracelet. "The album is crazy. The album is finished. I don't think the [delay] is going to affect the album. I'm still working, I'm still on every other mixtape."
In addition to Blaze, Free also has production from Kanye West and guest appearances from Snoop Dogg, Carey, Nelly and the Roc-A-Fella family.
"The vibe in the studio is crazy with the Roc, it's like a family," Free said of his various collaborations with his labelmates. "You might come in and Jay might be doing a song and tell you to lay a verse on there, [Memphis] Bleek might be doing a song and tell you to lay a verse."
Many of his team members made their way onto the set as nightfall was setting in to lend support and make cameos.
Notwithstanding the flames that were coming from Free, Jay and Beans as they recited their words on camera, things really heated up when Dame Dash made his way in front of the camera, standing by a garbage can with fire burning inside. Doing the expected — dancing — Dame got a little too close to the can and had to smack down a tiny conflagration that appeared on his arm.
"Let me move over here, that fire almost got me," Dame told Bleek, not missing a beat of music.
Meanwhile Jay continued rapping, "Gotta kill witnesses, 'cause Free's beard is sticking out."
"It's not a Philly thing, it's a religious thing," Freeway said of his signature thick facial hair between takes. "I'm a Suni Muslim and that's one of the attributes of a Muslim, to let their beards grow."
For a full-length feature on Jay-Z, check out "Jay-Z: It Is What It Is."