Freeway & Jake One - The Stimulus Package

Kyle Ellison 25/02/2010

Rating: 4/5

The first Rhymesayers release of the year has arrived, dropping a further reminder of the label's consistency and also its progress. Having been a major player in independent hip hop for the past 15 years, here we have 'The Stimulus Package'; a collaboration between ex Roc-a-Fella signee Freeway and former G-Unit beatmaker Jake One. Perhaps not an obvious addition to the Rhymesayers roster, yet this is partly representative of a more general convergence of independent and mainstream rap.

For the most part the combination of Free and Jake One is a prize winning one-two combo. After releasing his solo album White Van Music on Rhymesayers back in 2008, Jake One has been highly sought after; and for good reason. His beats on this album are as instant as they come, utilising a crisp live drum sound that matches Freeeway's vocals each and every time. There's nothing particularly flashy about the production, it's just well chosen samples over simple yet effective beats. Yet this is an environment Freeway seems comfortable in, and the record's best moments are products of a basic hip hop formula.

Take the Raekwon featured 'One Thing'; its swaggering boom bap drums a perfect match for Freeway's own self-assurance and pop culture referencing. It's not everyday you hear a line like “I don't want no trouble, you Bubbles-from-The Wire-ass-Nigga.” 'Microphone Killa', too, is an obvious standout track, as Jake One drops a monster of a beat that nicely lifts the records tempo after its midway point. This track also sees Freeway at his loosest lyrically, which arguably works in his favour, as some high-concept nursery rhyme themes earlier on feel a touch forced.

One slightly more blatant misstep is the Birdman adorned 'Follow My Moves', with a synthetic drum machine beat that is incongruous to the raw drums found elsewhere. Yet even so, as a standalone track it's perfectly decent, and Jake One's only error is including it in this particular collection. The other guest spots on the record feel much more at home, as Raekwon and Bun B deliver predictably strong verses and Beanie Sigel's appearance on 'Stimulus Intro' highlights the pair's obvious chemistry.

The truth is that the even the few criticisms that I do have of this record feel like nitpicking, for a body of work as consistent as this. Credit for this really has to go to Jake One, who effortlessly lines up potential single after potential single allowing little room for the listener to catch their breath. No easy feat over the course of 55 minutes, and so rarely executed. Freeway meanwhile is sharp throughout and appears to enjoy his new working environment, although funnily enough has signed to Cash Money Records for his next album. Whether or not that was a smart move remains to be seen , but both Freeway, Jake One, and also Rhymesayers Entertainment, will be happy with what they've produced here.