Rhymesayers Entertainment may have raised eyebrows when it announced the Jake One and Freeway collaborative project The Stimulus Package, frankly because it is seemingly a case of two different worlds colliding. Free, who rose from North Philadelphia’s badlands to Roc-A-Fella stardom is matched with renowned Seattle beatsmith Jake One on RSE, one of the more respected and successful outfits in Independent Rap. The house that Atmosphere built offered shelter to Philly Freezer after his Def Jam departure. As odd as that may seem, it is this type of pairing that sometimes brings out the most creative art in musicians.
More than 30 seconds into the album, Beanie Sigel notices that Freeway hasn’t said a word yet. “Yeah, I know,” he replies. “I just wanted to let the beat breathe for a minute.” It is that type of mutual respect and chemistry that allows this album to build and it shows that the pairing isn’t odd at all. In fact, the producer and emcee complement one another well throughout the album’s 15 cuts. Jake provides what Free is used to: Soul-based tracks that are wet concrete to make anthems (“Throw Your Hands Up,” “One Foot In”). But, he also offers more mellow beats (“Never Gonna Change,” “One Thing” , and “Free People”) that allow Free to show range. That variety in Uno’s production broadens as he channels Mannie Fresh on “Follow My Moves” and in “Sho’ Nuff,” inspired by southern Hip Hop to complement Bun B’s presence. Free and Jake also use classic Lench Mob production as a muse for the Young Chris-assisted “Microphone Killa.” Through all of this, Stimulus Package rarely loses cohesion, a mark of Jake One’s excellent production and Free’s improved delivery.
That development lends itself to a better experience. Where Freeway has almost always used his voice as an instrument, he now does it with more freedom and more to say over Jake’s concentrated production. This is exemplified by “The Product,” where Free discusses addiction cleverly. “I promise you when you’re done, there’s more product to come. I even supply coppers and doctors and ball players, a few politicians, some Jews, a few Christians. I even got some Muslims off their deen. I’m mean”). Flow-wise, he holds his own next to longtime partner Beanie Sigel, over Bun B’s tempo and in Raekwon’s kitchen. Moreover, he shows that part of his lyrical charm lies in his tangible verses, which he demonstrates on “Money.” Here he rhymes about trying times with a personal touch. “Now, it’s a recession and I’m stressin’…I’m not trying to be a working man. I’m sure not trying to do carpentry like my pops. Big pain in the bottom of his back and it be hurting him.” Sure, the flow is as precise as ever but his lyrics add depth to the equation making this effort worth a few more spins. At the same time, this song feels a bit misplaced when it is a few songs after “Follow My Moves,” a Birdman-assisted song that acts as if there’s no recession at all. More than his previous two albums, Free seems consumed with thoughts about sex. While The Stimulus Package has some great commentary on Hip Hop and economic matters, it’s also filled with countless juxtaposed references to oral sex and girlfriend thievery.
By the end of the album, it’s no surprise that these two teamed up for a whole project. After their chemistry in the past (see Jake One’s “The Truth” off 2008’s White Van Music) it seems they carried it over effortlessly. There are some missteps here (using “Hokey Pokey” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as lyrical references from children’s songs), but it is forgiven for its highlights as Free lets loose over some of Jake One’s most inspired beats. The two collaborate in a way that will allow their respective fan bases to rejoice, while giving new ears something to applaud. Two worlds may have collided on Stimulus Package but the result is one that is beneficial for both.