"GOTTA KILL WITNESSES 'CAUSE FREE'S BEARD STICKIN' OUT"

Back for the second day running on a less sprawling rant – as hip-hop, and the recording industry as a whole falls back and starts hi-fiving at derisory numbers compared to the days when Jimmy would’ve been kicking off at the Interscope offices at talk of 200k in the first week, it’s curious that the first thing to go was the fancy packaging. What other incentive was there to resist the right-click? Even mixtape art from the likes of TANSTA was better than most official releases aesthetically. Labels just seemed to give up. But while those Mike Zoot twelves gathered dust, and even with the recent passing of Def Jux, the Jansporter still inherited the earth as far as great art went, and it makes a difference – LEX are still refusing to skimp on those packaging budgets, but with the new Jake One and Freeway project, Rhymesayers have set a standard, and conferred a purchase from over here. Fuck it, this might be the first pang of excitement I’ve experienced where I need an album as an actual object in a long, long, long time.

The Rhymesayers approach to creating that out-the-way fanbase, getting a little emo when the dollar demanded it, and making a point of relentless touring and a steady stream of quality releases evidently pays off, and when design don gorgon Brent Rollins, of Ego Trip fame entered the fray, it looks like scrilla was no object, yet, at the same time, the focal point of ‘The Stimulus Package’s…uh, packaging. A wallet and money roll execution? Those little slots occupied by cards, including black plastic to unlock the instrumentals online, trumping Daft Punk’s ‘Daft Club’ card with ‘Discovery’? A succession of giant novelty notes? And that’s just the CD. The vinyl seems a little more conceptually cumbersome, but two slabs of marbled money green with similar presentation? This is a beautiful artifact, and one of the best pieces of album packaging ever, and that’s regardless of genre.

Of course, Jake’s a solid beatmaker with a strong work ethic, what’s leaked so far is appropriately hard, and Free…well, from that 1-900-Hustler headnod “Who the fuck?” Blaupunkt moment in 2000 to the XXL magazine accompanied trip to FAO Schwartz, and the first significant rap reference to ‘The Wire’ in that ‘What We Do’ promo before the wally liberal press in the UK managed to make burners a dinner table icebreaker over fennel risotto, he’s one of the best emcees out there. Even minus Blaze and that golden Roc lineup, after a momentary sophomore slump, he’s woken from being asleep at the wheel to become, like Sean Price that gully non-Twitter dude (Edit – Just discovered his Twitter game is fairly prolific) with the underground appeal.

If it appeals, go support Jake One and Freeway. They made the effort. Failing that, stick to your low bit rates and jewel cases. Whatever. Good to see Fifth Element (where these pictures are swaggerjacked from) bringing back the spirit of Sandbox and Hiphopsite with their pre-release offers. Ah, memories of long waits for records from Vegas and faxed credit card scans…fortunately these guys seem to be significantly more up to date when it comes to payment and delivery.