First things first, this album has some of the sweetest packaging I’ve ever seen. It comes in a freakin’ billfold, people! Seriously, it’s tight. Now, onto the music.

Jake One’s reputation a producer from the Seattle scene precedes itself. He’s hooked up with everyone from De La Soul to G-Unit. Freeway has had an interesting career path, starting out as a Roc-a-Fella protégé. I heard a song or two, and had somewhat written him off. Then I saw him on Chappelle’s Show with Mos Def and Kanye West and started to think there might be more to him than I originally thought. After I heard him guest “The Truth” and “Best @it” with Brother Ali , I started to become excited about his potential. When I heard that he had signed with Rhymesayers and was going to do a full-length with Jake One, and it was going to be titled The Stimulus Package, I was genuinely interested in what this project could be.

Unfortunately, this albums turns out to be one about which I feel greatly conflicted. For one, this might be some of the best production Jake One has done. There’s a great Curtis Mayfield-updated-for-a-new-era vibe to much of it, and it sounds really great coming out of your car speakers. On the other hand, Freeway is an emcee that drives me crazy over the course of the album. There are points where he sounds really smart and is challenging listeners. Yet he also falls into ridiculous gangsta clichés, rhyming about killing snitches and drugs and pussy that really makes me cringe. It really kills me, because I think Freeway has the potential to be special, if someone would just push him to move beyond his trappings.

This album had the potential to be one of my favorites of the year, with the political meaning behind the packaging and title. Instead, it becomes an album I have to choose what I like and don’t like about it.