Freeway and the Jacka released their joint-LP Highway Robbery on Tuesday, it was an album that was six-years in the making. It's not that Free, a former solider on Jay Z's now defunct Roc-A-Fella Records, or the Jacka, a Bay Area rap veteran, were just sitting around doing nothing -- actually they've been quite busy.
"It's crazy because the kinda music we were making, it wasn't made for a time," Free told MTV News on Monday during a telephone interview. "We were just trying to be creative and talk about stuff that most time people don't get a chance to talk about because the label wants you to be in the moment when you drop an album."
There is a certain timeless element to Highway Robbery. Songs like "Cherry Pie," with Freddie Gibbs, deal with universal struggle, while "On My Toes" teaches how to stay true to your hood while still reaching for worldwide goals.
The truth is, Highway Robbery probably won't resonate with average rap consumers who march to the beat of Drake's drums or Nicki Minaj's super bass, but as an independent release, it's a significant marker as to where the business of hip-hop is today. The album was released as a joint collaboration between Free's Team Early Entertainment and the Jacka's The Artist Records; and it is distributed by InGrooves Fontana.
It's a far cry from Freeway's Roc-A-Fella days, where he released just one album while the company was under Hov's watch. The independent grind is a lot harder, but more fulfilling, he says.
"When the whole Roc break-up happened I just went back to doing what I was doing before the Roc, which was grinding," Free explained. "It's definitely harder, but you enjoy the fruits of your labor more because you put more into it. I'm not just sitting around waiting to see what they're going to do with my career. I'm taking things into my own hands."
For Jacka, the indie hustle is all he knows. He estimates that he has between 35 and 40 indie albums to his name, a catalog that he couldn't amass on a major.
"I wanted to get a deal at one point when I was younger," he said, before explaining that the waiting game that artist play with majors are counter-productive. "It would've been stupid to wait."
Free agrees. "That's a lesson right there in itself; I was signed to a major so I couldn't produce as much material as I wanted to," he said of his Roc days. "After I drop an album, I gotta wait for Young Gunz to drop, I gotta wait for for [Beanie Sigel] to drop, I gotta wait for [Memphis] Bleek to drop before I drop another one."
With Highway Robbery, the wait for a release date was a creative choice, but now that it's here, Freeway and the Jacka are ready to let the music speak for itself. "When you got that hustler's mentality all you gotta do is press your sh-t up and let the people stand behind you," Jacka advises.