It’s a credit to Cam’ron’s artistic ingenuity that’s he’s been able to stay as relevant and exciting as he has even amid controversy. Many feared that the Dipset don’s extended disappearance in 2007 would be the death knoll of his career, but now, four years, three mixtapes, two albums and one Diplomats reunion later, Killa is back and better than ever. This time around, Cam has brought his Harlem partner Vado into the mix to deliver their oft-delayed Gunz N Butta LP, courtesy of E1 Entertainment.

However good the idea may have appeared on paper, especially given the duo’s interaction on Cam and DJ Drama’s heralded Boss of All Bosses tapes, Gunz N Butta fails to live up to its premise. Although by no means an unlistenable album, Gunz N Butta suffers from dry song content and sonic stagnation, making it a frustrating and often headache-inducing listen.

Cam’ron has never been known for subtlety, and it certainly shows on this most recent project. The album is made up of bombastic bangers that find Cam and Vado spinning tales of drugs and violence over araabMUZIK’s pounding samples and rattling hi-hats. Tracks like the orchestral opener “Killa” and the Final Fantasy VII-sampling “Monster Muzik” perfectly capture the duo’s explosive personalities, as they wax eloquent about hammers and hard white. When it comes down to it, it’s this very interplay between the two emcees that makes Gunz N Butta worthwhile. Cam and Vado trade verses with one another with incredible ease, perfectly complementing each other’s individual styles. While it would have been nice to see the duo bring other artists into the fold, the Harlem hit-makers bring more than enough heat on tracks like “Stop It 5” and “Put a Bird Up” to make up for it.

As entertaining as those massive-sounding songs are, it’s the rare wildcard moments where Flea and Slime truly shine. Subdued tracks like “Fuck a Freestyle” and the horror movie theme-tinged “Heat in Here” find the duo in an entirely different light, relying more on their lyrical skill than bravado and big bodied beats to succeed. At the same time, cuts like “They Don’t Like You” and “Be With Me” show a more soulful side to the rappers, reminiscent of tracks like “Down and Out” from Dipset’s heyday.

Unfortunately, those instances where Cam and Vado break through their street-hardened shells are too few to save Gunz N Butta from its plethora of mediocre moments. Songs like “Breathe,” “American Greed” and “Face-Off” are uninspired and transparently formulaic street bangers, while “Hey Muma” and “We All Up in Here” sound like copy-and-paste rehashes of the single “Speaking In Tungs” (which appears on the album, inexplicably sans Cam’ron’s verse). On the same token, many of the album’s beats fall apart under the weight of their own grandeur. “Face-Off”’s menacing strings butt heads with the song’s cacophonous drums, while other grooves like “I Luv U” and “Hey Muma” simply fail to peak the listeners’ interest.

Gunz N Butta has all the makings of a classic Dipset banger, but like many of Cam’ron’s albums, suffers from a lack of both direction and editing. Although Flea and Slime more than prove their worth as two of New York’s top Hip Hop acts, Gunz N Butta’s shortcomings make the project feel more like a run-of-the-mill mixtape than a cohesive retail release.

Video courtesy of OnSmash

Purchase Gunz N Butta by Cam’ron and Vado