Throughout the history of Hip-Hop, few emcees have reached the critical success of South Philadelphia’s own Beanie Sigel and Philly Freeway. Ascending during a Post-Biggie era in Rap, both Beanz and Freeza have been able to carve a space for themselves alongside names such as Jay Z, DMX, Nas and Houston’s own Scarface.
While in town for a performance at 5015 Bar as well to kick it with their longtime homeboy, the aforementioned Scarface, we were able to sit down with the two State Property emcees and shoot the breeze about their relationship to Houston.
Freeza: It’s called Haus of Lean?
Efe: Yeah! Speaking of lean, you guys have been heard saying that the Lean Culture in Philly actually started way before it did here in Houston. Do you mind explaining to everybody what you mean by that?
Beanz: “So you know, the lean in Philly? We was doing that in the early 60s. We had a lot of Actavis babies. Some people that’ve been around know about the Barre and all that but before that it was Cherry Red Am (Ambroxol) and Brominal (Bromhexine). That’s the era that I came up under. [I remember] being a kid and, by accident, taking my first sip of lean when I was 9 years old.
Efe: How old did you say you were?
Beanz: Nine years old. My Grandmother used to have the Sno Cones, you know, that you use with the crushed iced and squirt the syrup in? So me, not knowing, my uncle had gallons of the shit in the backroom of my mom’s spot. So one year for Christmas, she bought me Snoopy’s Sno Cone Maker. So I’m getting the ice cubes and crushing it up and I’m thinking I’m putting the icee shit on it, but it’s actually the red bromine and I didn’t know until years later. My mom didn’t let me go to sleep, she kept me up all night. That’s what I can give you on the history on lean in the early 60s-70s. Lean was on the scene in Philly. I don’t know how long it was in Houston, how long y’all been drinking lean out here?
Efe: It started out as mainly generic cough syrup mixes from musicians in the 60s and then the culture shifted to promethazine/codeine for the most part by the 80s.
Beanz: Haha, oh yeah I think we might got y’all beat.
Efe: We often hear other cities or areas try to claim that Houston stole the lean culture from them. Now we’re at the point where the lean culture has become a mainstay in hip hop culture so much so that the supply has gone down, prices have gone up and everybody seems to be wanting to show off their cup.
Beanz: You got the new culture that, I think, abuse it so much that it gets watered down. Like you know, growing up lean was always a Hustler’s High. Like a Money Getter’s High.
Freeza: I never was really into the lean like that, but I know a lot of niggas was drinking it straight. Like you know how they be mixing it with soda? Back in Philly, they used to take the lil jars and take straight show of them jars.
Beanz: Straight shots. Y’all call em lines, right? We just call them ounces and we put em in jars. You know the Muslim oil jars? They ounce bottles. So that’s how they got sold in Philly, by the individual ounce.
Efe: So when’s the last time you had a taste of some lean for yourself?
Beanz: Oh nah, my cup around here somewhere, just know that haha
Efe: Something else I know the city really wants to hear about is the famous METRO Bus ride you took with Scarface and Jay Z.
Beanz: Yeah that was me and [Scar]Face. We was like, “Fuck that. We gon’ ride the bus.”
Efe: Where were you guys going that day and do you have any special memories from your interactions with some of the people on the bus?
Beanz: We was on our way somewhere, I forget where we was going, but we was like fuck it! I think it was Face’s idea. “Come on. We gon’ catch the bus” and that was just a great experience. Just imagine, you getting on the bus and you see Beanie Sigel, Scarface and Jay Z, riding the METRO.
Efe: Yeah Beanz, I’m not gonna lie, I feel like if I was there, I would’ve sworn it wasn’t y’all. That was a time before Twitter and IG so I know the people on the bus had their minds blown. Especially seeing you and Jay here in Houston.
Beanz: Yeah, PRE social media. Way before social media. That’s how we rock. I got stories for days about Scarface. I remember going into these backwoods where it was pitch black and we start seeing this little light from like an outhouse or whatever. It was a flat out POKER room. We back there, just a whole bunch of thorough dudes in the back playing poker and Georgia Slim.
Efe: We know you and Free have a history of being very thorough, too. When y’all were coming up and you started being around other guys in the rap game who weren’t as thorough as you, how did you guys approach that?
Beanz: I mean, I grew up on listening to Face, so when I was recording my first album, they was like,
“Yo who you wanna work with?” and I’m like, “Scarface.”
They like “Alright, besides Scarface, who you wanna work with?”
That was it. That was BUCKETLIST!! Like Face used to get me in trouble, whether he know’s it or not.
Efe: Oh yeah?
Beanz: Yeah! When I was younger and we was doing our thing and I was robbing and stealing, I would listen to Scarface, drinking Cisco, to get amped up to go out and do my dirt.
Efe: That’s crazy you went from getting geeked to Scarface to being homeboys with Scarface
Freeza: Now got classics with Scarface!
Efe: Free who’s someone thorough that you wanted to work with when you first started?
Freeza: So I know this is far left to what everyone else might say but for me I was a fan of Black Sheep. You know Dres from Black Sheep? I just did a record with him about a couple months ago. It was really a blessing for me because he’s always been someone I looked up to. They always been an influence on me and now I’m gonna be on Dres’s next project and that’s just really dope for me.
Be on the look out for Dres’ upcoming project featuring Philadelphia Freeway and check out Freeway’s most recent release, “Think Free” available on all major DSPs!
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