My editor, Martin Cizmar, loves hip-hop almost as much as he hates house shows
. He loves N.W.A. and Jay-Z, and he knows I don't have much use for the genre, which is why he asked to me give a listen to Freeway & Jake One's new record, The Stimulus Package
. It's true: My knowledge of hip-hop is limited. I'm no more qualified to break down Obama's stimulus package than I am Freeway's. At least I'd heard of Obama.
I've channel-surfed past MTV's hip-hop video channel plenty of times, and my wife really likes Missy Elliott, and we have a few Beastie Boys records, and I saw that movie Hustle & Flow,
and I have a vague recollection of some East Coast-West Coast (sufficiently satirized in this Mr. Show sketch
) feud a few years back.
Beyond that, I'm clueless about hip-hop.
So, what to make of this collaboration between Freeway and Jake One? First, it's got the best packaging of any CD I've seen this year. The CD case itself is a cardboard leather wallet and the whole thing comes wrapped in a stack of oversize dollar bills with the faces of Freeway and Jake One on the front and lyrics and liner notes on the back. It's a nice throwback to the pre-download days and a cool reward for anyone who actually goes to the record store to pick this up.
The record starts out great with "Stimulus Intro," with Freeway and Jake One rapping over a few minutes of cool, vintage-sounding Philadelphia soul. Track two, "Throw Your Hands Up" is a catchy anthem featuring the irresistible call to "throw your hands up." I listened to The Stimulus Package while driving around town last night, figuring it'd be easier to focus on the lyrics as I drove than it would be while listening on iTunes at work.
Unfortunately, halfway through track three, the glaze-over settled in. It all started to sound awfully same-y to me, musically and thematically. Though this line from "She Makes Me Feel Alright," a not-so-subtle paean to sex, caught my attention: "She say, 'We think we gonna be acting Tina Turner? Boy, you be bugging out' / I told her, 'I love you, I'll never hit you, except for in your coochie and your mouth."
Clearly, I'm out of it. I didn't realize rappers were still singing about AKs and "killing niggas" and drugs ("The Product" features this great line: "I even supply coppers and doctors and ballplayers / A few politicians / Some Jews / A few Christians / I even got some Muslims off their deen, I'm mean"). I thought that was strictly 1990s stuff, like back in the gangsta rap days. For all I know, Freeway & Jake One are like some Amy Winehouse retro act. But like I said earlier, I don't know shit about hip-hop.
Tune in Monday for my list of my favorite songs from February. Also we're working on a regular "Nothing Not New" podcast, so you all can hear some of this stuff. Have a good weekend.
Best song: Track number nine -- "Microphone Killa." This is the one song that shook me from the lull created by tracks three through eight.
I'd rather listen to: I can't help it . . . vintage rap from the early '80s. That stuff is simply more entertaining.
"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.
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