My introduction to Freeway was on Kanye West’s “Two Words”, from his debut album College Dropout. I thought he was a remarkable rapper. I liked the percussive flavor of his voice, and the beard is somehow compelling, too. I thought his MC moniker was a bit odd, but it turns out it isn’t a reference to an actual freeway, but to Ricky “Freeway” Ross, the drug dealer credited with introducing crack to LA. If it sounds familiar, it’s because Miami’s Rick Ross drew his moniker from the same drug dealer.
The Stimulus Package has the most elaborate CD packaging you can imagine. It’s a wallet, with a roll of dollar bills with the lyrics printed on them. No plastic involved. So when I came across it, I had to check it out. The guy from the Kanye video with his mug printed on giant Monopoly dollar bills. How is that not cool? The Philly Freezer is in fine form on this one, and it has the added bonus of introducing me to the brilliant production work of Jake One.
Thirty seconds into the first track (“Stimulus Intro”), Beanie Sigel is urging Freeway to start “talking to the people.” Freeway gives a nod to Jake One in response: “Yeah, I know… I just wanted to let the beat breathe for a minute.”
It’s a good way to kick off a record, showing both artists at their best, each working off the other’s strengths. Jake One’s production work gives Freeway a consistent backdrop to rap against, and it’s the best production I’ve heard behind him since Kanye West (I had to explore his back catalog after hearing The Stimulus Package).
After “Stimulus Intro”, the record just explodes with “Throw Your Hands Up.” Great production, and it certainly made my 5-year-old son want to throw his hands up in the air.
Jake One’s production work here pushes Freeway to do some of the best verses of his career. And it’s the right backdrop for his raps. Freeway’s style is kind of aggressive, even a bit abrasive, and the gorgeous, sophisticated production work mellows some of that abrasiveness.
A lot of the production work is just Jake One, but a good number of tracks are augmented by a guy who goes by G Koop – playing guitar, keys, and bass, and even arranging strings on a few tracks. They work really well together, and I hope to see more collaboration from them in the future.
There are good feature spots by Raekwon (who seemed to be everywhere in 2010), Bun B, and Philly’s Young Chris, who features on early Freeway releases, too (Rap Money being my favorite). Freeway has a few concept songs that stand out, too – particularly “The Product” and “Free People” – and “Stimulus Outro” has him reading and commenting on fan mail. Flint, MI gets a nod. Go Flint!
The Stimulus Package is worth checking out for Jake One’s production work, Freeway’s growth as a rapper, and – I’m serious about this – the crazy CD packaging. It’s one of a kind.