Diminishing returns have long been the norm for onetime Roc-a-Fella junior-leaguer Freeway. Since Philadelphia Freeway, his flawed-but-fresh 2003 debut, his distinctively billy-goat’s-gruff flow has lost some of its urgency and ferocity. Unfortunately, The Stimulus Package doesn’t do much to rehabilitate his career. Producer Jake One provides an earth-toned aural couture that’s alternately head-knocking and soulful. But Freeway mostly squanders these riches with rote rhymes that reiterate tired talking points: The rap game is some bullshit; the fans hold him down and keep him going; sometimes he still had to peddle drugs to make ends meet.
Yet — just like every other Freeway album — the bearded bandit does us a solid or three, like “Stimulus Outro,” where our host gets choked up over fan mail. “Throw Your Hands Up” conjoins an onslaught of acrobatic, old-school roll calls and regal, canned strings and horns for some festive, Roc-level fire, while “Never Gonna Change” somehow manages to rewire the Notorious B.I.G.’s warning with Milton Bradley played-straight quips. And “She Makes Me Feel Alright” breathes new life into gangsta rap’s cliché “the-wifey-and-I-roll-together” template. — Ray Cummings
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