Release Date: Feb 16, 2010
Record label: Rhymesayers
Freeway & Jake One :: Stimulus PackageRhymesayers EntertainmentAuthor: John-Michael BondIn 2003 Freeway dropped his Roc-A-Fella debut and cemented his position as an artistic powerhouse who fit in with his crew about as fluidly as MC chris at a Mobb Deep show. It wasn't that Free wasn't grimy enough, outside of Beanie Sigel the Roc didn't have anyone grimier, but rather he was an artist who was never destined to make the radio say "play that shit again!" After years of battle rapping his voice and flow had a coarse grain that stripped away any sense of radio friendly melody that might sneak into the passionately terse speed that also came from a background in microphone warfare. It felt more natural to see him side by side with such backpack friendly rappers as Mos Def and Kanye West on "The College Dropout"s "Two Words" than he ever did the Mariah Carey, the all time go-to siren for giving gangster rappers a heart of gold, so it wasn't really shocking to see how well Freeway faired after the Roc exploded.
Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, Freeway is free at last. Of all the rappers to watch their careers go the way of the mixtape rapper in the wake of Cam’ron and Jay-Z’s dissolution of the Roc, Freeway is the one I always held a soft spot for. His debut with Just Blaze, 2003’s Philadelphia Freeway, was a monster of soulful production that took most seriously Jay-Z’s Blueprint for success.
Pay little mind to the title; The Stimulus Package isn’t aiming to ape Jeezy’s post-Recession thug motivation shtick. Freeway lacks the pretension or ambition to put out even a half-assed concept album. Free’s always been something of a yeoman rapper: consistent, modest, and never not rapping his ass off. But modesty and lack of ambition hardly advance careers.
On the surface, it is easy to understand why people might not be excited for The Stimulus Package, the fourth album from Philadelphia native Freeway. The man is now seven years removed from his career apex, the eternally excellent What We Do off his debut, Philadelphia Freeway. The years in between then and now have been anything but kind to Free: label trouble, lyrical barbs with mega-producers Just Blaze and Kanye West, the formation and disbanding of not one but two crews (State Property and Ice City) and a loss of faith in rap itself have all plagued the rapper.
The Stimulus Package comes housed in a gigantic money clip-- the liner notes on the backs of gigantic dollar bills with the faces of Freeway and Jake One on them, the CD itself in a cardboard wallet along with a download card for the instrumental version. As a design conceit, it's brilliant-- the packaging alone might make the album worth its price as a straight-up conversation piece. But it also highlights some of the weirdness surrounding the record's release, since the LP probably wouldn't exist if Freeway were still walking around with gigantic money clips in his pocket.
Who could have predicted that Freeway would have his best success at an indie label? Brought up by Jay-Z and the Roc-a-Fella family, the Philly Freeway was bred for stardom but ultimately rapped with a voice too gruff to break through the glitz and glamour. RAF's label loss is Rhymesayers' gain. With Jake One (G Unit, White Van Music) unleashing an arsenal of hard snares ("Never Gonna Change") and deep grooves, Freeway flows relentless ("Microphone Killa") and deservedly loose ("One Foot In"), with the pressure of dropping a hit single off his shoulders.
Paul Motian, Chris Potter,and Jason Moran So much about jazz, at its higher levels, has to do with an end run around erudition. There’s not much art in methodology, not inherently, so a great soloist works past it without quite letting it go. The drummer Paul Motian is a genius when it comes to nudging band mates out on that tightrope; he has the Zen touch and a mischief maker’s nerve.