Before I delve in to the music on Freeway and Jake One's The Stimulus Package, a word has to be said on the inventive packaging. The album is shaped like a wallet, with dollar bills serving as liner notes that you put inside the wallet. For a lover of the endangered species known as the compact disc, it's nice to see a label can still pull out all of the stops and put out a nice physical product to buy.
Now on to the music. The Stimulus Package seems to be aimed at a mainstream audience, yet it have several characteristics that fit much better with the underground. Freeway is a Roc-A-Fella alum, and his rhymes and flow on the Stimulus Package fit inside of the Roc's tradition. The beats also follow Jay-Z's template of using soul sampled and smooth beats that he used on his Blueprint album.
Besides being on perhaps the best known indie rap label Rhymesayers, the Stimulus Package features one MC (mostly) and one producer, lending it a consistency that is rarely seen in big budget mainstream releases. The beats are also a lot more nuanced than they would appear, and several listens reveal a lot of detail.
Jake One is the star here. Considering he's made beats for artists as divergent as Young Buck and Slug, Jake One seems perfectly suited to making glossy and soulful beats that appeal to both sides of the hip hip aisle. Though the beats are slightly one note, they're smooth, go down easy, and keep your head nodding throughout it's 15 tracks. Luckily, the CD comes with a card for downloading an instrumental version of the album.
Freeway is the weaker of the partnership here. He's a perfectly capable MC who can flow well and tell a good story, but he doesn't do anything to blow me out of the water. Maybe a few more listens will reveal some more lyrical nuggets from Freeway.
One Thing, You Know What I Mean, and The Product make up the strongest stretch of tunes on the album. Put Your Hands Up is a great opener and Free People is also an excellent song. But really, it's a very consistent album without a real noticeable weak track. Even the two song detour in to southern rap are pretty good, except for the extremely poor verse by Birdman on Follow My Moves.
Mainstream and indie rap fans can both find something to like on the Stimulus Package. It's the best hip hop release I've heard in a long time.