22 March 2011

2010: Forbidden, Freeway and Jake-One

Omega Wave

Released October 22, 2010 (Nuclear Blast)

Short Notes: In which we give another B to another metal record.

Lin: B

This is a band with a history that probably deserves mentioning, but you can get that from any other review and I don't know any more than what wikipedia tells me. So, the first time I ever head of this band was when I picked up the album. Omega Wave betrays the bands 80's thrash origins, reaching back to the classic days of bands like Slayer, Metallica, or Judas Priest. This is not a bad thing. Most of the metal I listen to anymore is more along the prog/doom axis, so it's refreshing coming back to a "face-melting" instead of "head-crushing." I like this album, but I don't know enough about metal to really differentiate it from the pack -- especially if we start seriously comparing it to albums made 25 years ago. It's very much a "throw it on and forget about it" type of album as there's nothing particularly weak or strong. "Dragging My Casket" and the title track are the only ones that really jumped out at me better than the rest.

Brandon: B

I liked this record rather better than the other metal records Lin (our resident ‘head) has picked for the list (Agalloch aside), for most of the reasons he listed above. It sounds more like a “classic” metal album, with a lot of thrash and a hint of the NWOBHM (I do love Judas Priest). I’ve decided that I don’t really care for the really sludgy metal sound, or for the screamo death metal vocals, and this record, which is fast, technical, and with (mostly) traditional thrash vocals, is much more to my liking. Then why only a B? Because, while I can say I like it better, this still isn’t an album I anticipate putting on in the course of my ordinary life. There are a handful of metal records I do listen to with some small amount of regularity, and until I have enough background to describe better what I do and don’t like, it’s unlikely I’ll be dishing out higher grades.

Freeway & Jake One
The Stimulus Package
Released February 16, 2010 (Rhymesayers)

Short Notes: State Prop, Roc-A-Fella vet goes with the indie label from the MPLS, plays to his strengths.

Brandon: B

So it is maybe possible that about a year ago, when I first got a hold of the his record, I might have suggested I though it might turn out to be the hip-hop album of 2010. This was clearly my Rhymesayers obsession talking. Freeway is a rapper who, at his best, makes the kind of rap that I like best--big, heavy bangers with gruff but lyrical rhyming. My personal favorite purveyor of this (heavily NYC-centric) hip-hop is M.O.P. (“Ante Up,” suckers. Ante up.), but Freeway’s first solo record back in the heady golden days of mainstream rap (2003), Philidelphia Freeway, was a pretty good example, too. Songs like the Jay-Z/Beanie Sigel posse track “What We Do” and the exquisite “Line ‘Em Up” were classic Roc-A-Fella hits, and are still in heavy rotation on my iPod’s hip-hop omnibus mix.

But while I had huge hopes for the possibility that Free might bring some much-needed heft to the brilliant but not exactly gangsta Rhymesayers crew, this record really hasn’t stood up to repeated listens. It’s consistent, but in a 15 track, solo rapper/solo producer hip-hop record, consistency is overrated. There’s noting here that transcends the way that the 3 or 4 best Freeway tracks (and really, 3 or 4 really great tracks makes you a second-line star in the context of the mid-1990s to mid-2000s major label era, when pretty much anyone with decent connections could get a major label advance) did.

The real problem is that there’s nothing on this record that matches the heat of one of my all-time favorite rap tracks and previous Freeway/Jake-One collaboration, 2008’s epic “The Truth,” in which Freeway and Brother Ali do some of their best work of their careers. But it could be worse. At least he’s not Memphis Bleek.

Lin: B

I haven't paid much attention to Freeway, knowing him only from a few isolated tracks and guest appearances. What I've heard never inclined me towards digging deeper. Perhaps it's because it's a more complete picture, but The Stimulus Package easily clears the admittedly low bar I set for it. It's not brilliant and isn't on the level of, say, the Big Boi album, but it has its moments while minimizing the amount of skippable time. Freeway's not a particularly unique rapper -- I'm not sure I could pick his style and syntax out of a line-up -- but he's a talented enough writer to keep the album from being forgettable. The same is not completely true for Jake One's production who provides mostly workingman's beats. The album is like the movie that you don't regret paying $10 and spending 2 hours, but didn't set your world on fire, either.

1 comment:

Lin said...

I hadn't heard the Freeway/Brother Ali before. Pretty awesome.