Two great flavors

Freeway and Jake One team up to lay it down
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  February 16, 2010

WORLDS COLLIDE: When you cross a BET icon like Freeway (above) with a genuine track star of Jake One's caliber, "best of both worlds" accolades are hardly hyperbolic.

Ivory and Ebony: Jake One and Freeway aren't hip-hop's first multi-racial tag team. By Chris Faraone.
One can only wonder what the door policy will be at Freeway & Jake One shows (including the one that comes to the Middle East on Friday). Although he's done tracks for G-Unit, Jake One is a white Seattle underground stalwart who's best known for producing gems with the Midwest indie powerhouse Rhymesayers. In other words, he's the type of artist whose fans rarely get harassed and frisked. Freeway, however, is a coke-talking, scary-bearded black Roc-A-Fella ex-pat from Philly's toughest blocks. His legionnaires are accustomed to lifting their shirts, hats, and nut sacks for bouncers.

Racial profiling and double standards aside, the intersection of these two hip-hop hemispheres on the new The Stimulus Package (Rhymesayers) is a positive development. Subterranean snobs might not realize this, but not all commercially successful rappers are complete hacks. (It's just hard to tell, since clowns like Cam'ron are assigned sonically retarded beats fit for grade-school mixers.) Likewise, not all fringe producers spin tracks that sound like alien farts. So when you cross a BET icon like Freeway — who's blessed with a special kind of vocal prowess — and a genuine track star of Jake One's caliber, "best of both worlds" accolades are hardly hyperbolic.

"Nowadays there are so many hot up-and-coming producers that I try and stay open-minded," says Freeway, whose major-label output has featured such marquee beatmakers as Dame Grease, Kanye West, and Cool & Dre. "For me, this wasn't about anything more than really liking what Jake was sending me. He did something for my Free at Last album, then I did two for his [White Van Music], then he just kept sending over beats and I just kept cutting joints until we had the whole thing done."

Of course, even before leaving Roc-A-Fella for the independent Rhymesayers, Freeway was never quite the average MTV spectacle (aside from his massive dangling medallion). As one of the Roc family's dedicated hood cats — along with fellow Philly native Beanie Siegel — he enjoyed the freedom to spit nails in the shadow of Jay-Z's materialistic superficiality. Indeed, Freeway's breakout 2003 hit, "What We Do," is a downtrodden tale of urban woe on which he declares, "Fuck a Bentley or a Lexus." Hova hopped on for endorsement purposes, but otherwise the single was the hardest thing to rock Billboard since DMX.

"Some things with Rhymesayers are more real than anything I've ever done," Freeway acknowledges. "But even at Roc-A-Fella, some of my biggest songs were never aimed at the radio. We just did what we did, and things worked out. When I said that I wanted to use 'What We Do' as a single, people said it couldn't happen because it didn't have a hook. You know how the rest of that one goes."

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