Freeway & Jake One
The Stimulus Package

(Rhymesayers Entertainment)

In this corner: Philly MC Freeway, Roc-A-Fella, beast of flow and cadence, maker of two minor hardcore classics in Philadelphia Freeway and Free at Last. In the other: local star Jake One, now of Dr. Dre's elite Aftermath beat stable, renowned master of the "slap." Together, they make some compelling-ass rap music—icy asphalt-hard, plush-as-butter Range Rover leather. With the sterling Stimulus Package, they've both delivered their most mature and dimensional work yet.

No longer the young gun, Free the seasoned OG speaks from a well of game and experience that resonates with truth and insight all over The Stimulus Package. Take the quick "dos and don'ts of the block" primer "Know What I Mean," an absolute clinic in lean and mean hiphop—sparse, drums on mud-hole-stomp mode, with Jake's "Genius of Love" synth squiggles in queasy Technicolor. Without being too studio-slick or flashy, Freezer and Jake are nonetheless popping wheelies, showing off stepped-up game in all categories.

There's the no-bullshit Biggie-caliber story rhyme of "Never Gonna Change" (in which Jake freaks those stuttering drums he first pulled out to cap-peeling effect on De La Soul's "Rock Co.Kane Flow" and Freeway freaks 'em right on back with that stick-shift flow of his, more controlled than ever) and the slap-your-mama "Microphone Killa." Jake's vaunted part-Dre/part-Dilla drum detail is at its very best these days, leaving a wide swath of oft-compared producers heaving in his dust. The tasteful features run from Beanie Sigel and Bun B to Lil Wayne's father figure Birdman, whose appearance on the murder bounce of "Watch My Moves" notches up the already high "this is coming out on Rhymesayers?!" WTF quotient. In fact, a team-up of this pedigree proving that you can do uncompromising, straight-up classic material like this on an indie and win—instead of trading favors to look good losing with some fad-producer singles—that, my friend, is the real payout. Freeway & Jake One: The Stimulus Package recommended