Time is at a premium this week so regular readers may notice the extended tenure of the ‘guest review style of the week’ from a fortnight ago to facilitate our exploraton of this freshly-released offering from Leslie Edward Pridgen and Jacob Dutton. Or Freeway and Jake One as their mums know them…
WHAT’S RIGHT WITH IT?
Well, and I hate to sound like a stuck record here (y’know – one of those big black cd things), it’s the production stupid. Jake One delivers an impressive sound that you could go to the bank with, correctly getting the bottom end right as if he couldn’t care less what this sounded like on mobile phone speakers. It’s also worth noting when he gets a bit inventive with the beats as on the clattering snares of ghetto tale Never Gonna Change which initially sounded like El-P had popped round for a cup of tea and had a crack at the drum programming while Jake was in the toilet but later resonates as the most memorable beat on the album. Also Microphone Killa livens things up and sees Freeway and Young Chris trade battle rhymes over a lively slice of boom-bap and furious scratching though, in common with much of the album, it could have done with being more stripped down and minimal. Freeway gets in some pretty memorable lines too – on The Product for instance where he delivers flow from the viewpoint of drugs and has a crack at the gangsta mentality, “Yes, I’m the product, I’m the narcotic/ I got all these rappers working for me/ Yes, I’m the product, I am like the chronic/ I’ve got Dr Dre detoxin’ off me,”…or during Sho’ Nuff where I hope he’s taking the piss with, “Who’s bad? I’m bad/ I am Michael Jackson, Puff Daddy bad/ Boy I will strike you with a belt like your dad/ I will rock your bells I am LL bad.” You don’t get the impression that he is overshadowed by his guests (including Raekwon and Beanie Sigel) at any rate. Furthermore this particular stimulus package is a consistent for its duration and you don’t feel that the pair have buried lots of half-assed filler after the two thirds point – witness the soul-hook of Money, for example, which features Omilio Sparks and Mr Porter – one of the stronger tracks on the LP and thirteenth out of fifteen.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH IT
Jake One’s rather good solo long-player White Van Music from a year or two back might have led you to expect some sort of musical variety on this so it comes as something of a disappointment to discover that ninety per cent of The Stimulus Package is – ho-hum – 80-90 bpm beats and multi-layered orchestral soul loops. It’s a template we’ve all heard a million times in the last decade in both the underground and the mainstream and frankly, it’s getting a bit wearing. In fact it puts me in mind of the Black Milk’s Popular Demand a couple of years back which was feted like nuclear fusion had been discovered or something but failed to ignite planet hip-hop and makes me long for a back-to-basics (funny how the language of political spin keeps turning up in hip-hop) approach. Talking of wearing (like I was a minute ago) – the idea of Freeway and his strained, high-pitched flows gets a bit thin after nearly an hour too.
Whatever other unlikely legacies the Obama administration might leave behind, the one surefire thing will be a multitude of hip-hop LPs and mixtapes (including, apart from this one, offerings from Del The Funky Homosapien and South Rakkas Crew) all entitled The Stimulus Package. Unlike Obama’s stimulus package (which might have reversed economic freefall by the skin of its teeth) I haven’t yet heard one which will do much to reverse the generic freefall of hip-hop though this particular one might slow it for a bit. Very good of its kind even if its ‘kind’ could do with a bit of a rest.