Two competing samples open Electric Highway, the latest mixtape from Rockie Fresh. On the one hand, you’ve got the commercial pitch for DeLoreans, a particular obsession of the Chicago MC. At the beginning of that speech about “gull-wing doors…beckoning you inside” is that all-too-familiar sting: “Maybach Music”. The talk prior to this tape entailed wondering whether the Rozay seal of approval and major label deal would affect Fresh’s M.O., but opening track “The Future” (complete with a Doc Brown sample) announces his individuality, standing up and saying something few rappers would be bold enough to say: “I’d rather listen to Taylor Swift than most of you niggas / And my lady prefer that I never smoke with you niggas.”
This is the same guy who garnered buzz for associating with members of Fall Out Boy and Good Charlotte, so it’s good to see the Maybach Music Group signing doesn’t mean he’s just become Rick Ross Jr. or a Wale clone. But that’s not to say that he’s shying away from the Bawse either. While production from Lunice on standout “Superman OG” and a sample chopped from The xx on “Show Me Sumthin'” sit on one side, the sex-crazed brag of “Thick Bitch (Hit My Jack)” and guest spots from Ross sit on the other. Rockie Fresh isn’t catering to the hipsters or the mainstream rap fans and he’s not presenting two different personas. He’s just riding through town in his DeLorean and letting things flow.
The MC born Donald Pullen isn’t just freestyling aimlessly, though; he’s rapping with a purpose, namely taking over the game. “Goddamnit I’m fresh / goddamnit I’m next,” he insists on “Superman OG”. For every mention of his cars and fashion, there’s a reference to growing out of his past. “Barrel of a Gun” emphasizes taking the one shot you have at climbing out of neighborhoods like the South Side of Chicago he was born into. It’s a shame that the tempo and production of the record often feels as if it lacks that strength in diversity. The bell-ringing trap-sample chorus of “I’m Wit It” and the Curren$y-featuring soul of “Roll Up Right Now” hit about the same speed, and neither would be Driving 88, instead coasting under the speed limit. A hard-hitting, high-tempo change of pace track would help, but instead the tape moves like molasses under the weight of 17 successive smooth jams.
Essential Tracks: “Superman OG”, “The Future”, and “Barrel of a Gun”