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Freeway And Jake One: Leaders Of The New School

Philadelphia rapper Freeway was an integral part of Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records, and his 2003 debut, Philadelphia Freeway, went gold. But when Jay-Z linked up with Live Nation, Freeway made an inspired decision to sign with the Minneapolis indie hip-hop label Rhymesayers. More known for Slug's style of emo-rap than Freeway's hard-edged street sounds, the imprint has nevertheless proven a great home for him, as evidenced by his excellent recent CD, The Stimulus Package. It doesn't hurt that the disc was produced by Seattle DJ Jake One, perhaps the best boom-bap-style beat maker in the business.

The album's first proper song, "Throw Your Hands Up," is a rousing jock-jam designed to get the blood pumping. Over a dramatic bass line, high-register synths and a blitzkrieg of record-scratching, Freeway announces that he and Jake One are here to rock listeners in an old-school way. Though the chorus references Obama's recession-busting financial plan -- "It's The Stimulus Package / Throw your hands up / We givin' back to the people" -- the verses shout out the golden-era rappers Freeway loved in his youth, like Wu-Tang Clan, The Pharcyde and Rakim. "We bringing y'all original flavor / Raised on De La / Kept Black Moon in my boom-box player." Nostalgic and relevant, smart and fun, "Throw Your Hands Up" finds two compelling artists in top form.

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Ben Westhoff
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