Unlike Freeway's past projects, The Stimulus Package avoids the cameo trappings that stopped those efforts just short of greatness. Most important, assholes like 50 Cent, Nelly, and Mariah Carey are nowhere to be heard, since a minimal number of guests were invited to beef up selected tracks — not the track list. Raekwon is a natural fit for the anti-snitch anthem "One Thing"; "Sho' Nuff" would have rung less complete without some Bun B drawl. As a package, though, the album is a testament to what hip-hop sounds like when boundaries get obliterated.
"It's not that much different from the chemistry that I've had with producers before," says Freeway, who recorded half of The Stimulus Package on his own in Philly (via e-mailed beats) and the other half at Jake's lab in Seattle. "Still, the label situation gives me more freedom than I had before . . . it's definitely a good hands-on relationship. There are no middle men — when they [Rhymesayers] need something, they come to me directly, and when I need something, I just call."
There have been some comment-board squeals from sanctimonious Atmosphere fanboys who disapprove of indie Rhymesayers crossing the proverbial train tracks. Otherwise, chatter about this collaboration has popped ecstatically since Jake and Freeway announced their plans at South by Southwest this past year. In a moment of sheer amazement, a friend of mine who favors exclusively fruits of the Jay-Z tree asked whether I knew about this fresh new producer Jake One. The Stimulus Package might sound like a generic title on the surface, but when you consider the dialogue it's spurred even before its release, there's no more appropriate headline.
"I got my start with Roc-A-Fella — I can never front on that," Freeway points out. "Even though things fell apart with that situation, there's still love in my heart. I'm just keeping my options open. I have a point to prove with this record, and then I'll take it from there. I'm glad that people are talking about it — everyone I've played it for loves it. I won't sit here and front like we had a master plan, though. We just went in, and this is what came out — a masterpiece."
FREEWAY & JAKE ONE + TERMANOLOGY + HEDDSHOTTS + RE-SURCH | Middle East downstairs, 480 Mass Ave, Cambridge | February 19 at 8 pm | 18+ | $15 | 617.864.EAST or www.mideastclub.com