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. VERDICT
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.
Back in the day it used to be so easy. In fact, the recipe is so straightforward it’s hard to see why so few manage it these days. What am I on about? Getting a decent rapper and a decent DJ/ Producer to actually work together of course. Jake One’s 2008 drop White Van Music was one of that year’s better hip-hop releases and the Freeway track How We Ride was one of the better tracks on it. Expectations are high then, for the pair’s collabo The Stimulus Package, released 15 February this year on Rhymesayers. In the meantime check out Jake One’s bad man wagon on the Hands On video – he’s so G he rolls in a hatchback. Better than a white van though…oh yeah and have a free mixtape on the pair of them and DOWNLOAD – The Beat Made Me Do It mixtape HERE. Press release and tracklist beneath the video…
(PRESS RELEASE) February 17th, 2009 in an effort to stimulate the U.S. economy President Barack Obama signed into law The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the stimulus package. On February 15th of 2010, another bad brother Philadelphia Freeway, seizes the moment and sets out to stimulate the Hip Hop industry by signing into law the Hip Hop Recovery and Reinvestment Act with the release of his third official studio album “The Stimulus Package”.
Produced entirely by veteran G-Unit producer Jake One, “The Stimulus Package” showcases some of Freeway’s most dynamic and engaging work to date. The collaboration of these two heavyweights along with the strength of independent powerhouse Rhymesayers Entertainment [home to Atmosphere, Brother Ali and MF Doom] makes The Stimulus Package already one of the year’s most anticipated releases.
Since his breakout Roc-A-Fella debut “Philadelphia Freeway” in 2003, which achieved gold status selling over 500,000 units, Freeway has consistently been regarded as “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper”. Releasing his sophomore follow up “Free at Last” in 2007, which featured the Jake One produced classic “It’s Over”, Freeway has kept his skills sharp recording numerous mixtapes, unofficial albums and online leaks all while playing hundreds of shows across the country.
Jake One & Freeway – The Stimulus Package – Tracklist
1. STIMULUS INTRO feat. Beanie Sigel
2. THROW YOUR HANDS UP
3. ONE FOOT IN
4. SHE MAKES ME FEEL ALRIGHT
5. NEVER GONNA CHANGE
6. ONE THING feat. Raekwon
7. KNOW WHAT I MEAN
8. THE PRODUCT
9. MICROPHONE KILLA feat. Young Chris
10. FOLLOW MY MOVES feat. Birdman
11. SHO’ NUFF feat. Bun B
12. FREEKIN’ THE BEAT feat. Latoiya Williams
13. MONEY feat. Omilio Sparks and Mr. Porter
14. FREE PEOPLE
15. STIMULUS OUTRO
If you’re reading this in the UK you can relax – LP title White Van Music is not a reference to commercial radio stations that play Girls Aloud at speaker-blowing volumes – DJ/Producer Jake One doesn’t roll like that. His homies do however include De La Soul, MF Doom, E40, Nas and Fifty Cent (to name but a few) – in fact – he’s part of the G-Unit production team. ‘What?’ I hear you ask, ‘is this man trying to appeal to both the underground and the mainstream? How does he straddle this divide? Like a colossus – or like a clown with one foot on a roller skate and the other on a banana skin?’ Well, on the evidence of White Van Music, I have to say the answer tends more toward the former.
On this, his debut solo LP, Jake One works with rappers as mainstream as Busta Rhymes and as cult as MF Doom and Slug: as old school as Casual and Posdnuos and as hyphy as Keak Da Sneak. He chamelonically adapts his sound to each MC without attempting to blatantly ape the sound for which each rapper is known. So what is Jake One’s sound? First track I’m Coming pretty much answers that one – fat beats shot through with a heavy dose of seventies soul. A blaxploitation sample about being high on ‘musical dope’ gives way to a chant of ‘Open up I’m coming’ that sounds like a war-party of psycho munchkins before Black Milk and Nottz kick a dope verse. It’s one of the best tracks on the LP, though MOP ‘joint’ Gangsta Boy and Brother Ali vehicle The Truth keep the quality until the first interlude. The D Black and Little Brother cuts which follow aren’t bad but they just aren’t all that distinctive either. Things pick up a bit with the skipping break on the Posdnuos and Slug’s Oh Really and Doom rolls it all abstract on the noirish Trap Door. Freeway gets lively again on How We Ride and is given a suitably upbeat backdrop, Doom gets a second highly satisfactory crack at the whip on Get ‘Er Done and Hiero soldier Casual gets all up in your face with Feelin’ My Shit. As far as lyrical themes go it’s (unsurprisingly) ninety per cent all about how dope each rapper is – though Blueprint obviously felt secure enough about himself to tell a story about the shit that happened when he was seeing some gangsta chick rather than constantly big himself up in Scared. You won’t be at all surprised to learn that the prize for best rhymes goes to the effortless Daniel ‘Doom’ Dumile though.
This isn’t an LP where the quality drops off radically after the first two thirds, in fact there’s nothing wack on here at all – even Busta Rhymes holds back on the cheese and production is warm and full – not unlike my new baby’s nappy – though that stinks and Jake One’s production does not. In fact there’s only two flavours of Jake One in evidence – the not bad and the pretty good. I guess I could’ve done with a little more variety in tempo or style – but there’s variety in MCs instead. It would be cheap to end by punning that everything is pretty much ‘jake’ with White Van Music, but hey – it’s true. Out now on Rhymesayers Buy White Van Music: Jake One Presents @ amazon.co.uk