The story of Brian “Birdman” Williams’ ascent to the
top of the rap game will go down in history. With the assistance of his brother
and now household names Lil Wayne, Juvenile, BG, Turk,
and former in house producer Mannie Fresh, Williams showed the
world why “Cash Money is an army.” After selling hundreds of thousands
of albums independently, The Williams brothers negotiated a $30 million
dollar deal with Universal and haven’t looked back. The relationship
introduced Birdman and company to the world, proving that New Orleans
had more to offer the game than No Limit. The word “bling”–coined by the
collective–found its way to standard dictionaries, and Birdman
solidified his position as the Number One Stunna.
When internal problems threatened to derail Cash Money
Records, Birdman–with a hell of an assist from his “son”, Lil
Wayne–put the label on their shoulders and forged on. In 2002, Birdman–then
known as Baby–released his debut solo album, Birdman (whose breakout
hit, What Happened to that Boy? features Wayne’s current rivals, The
Clipse). He followed that up with 2005’s Fast Money. With a
collaboration album with Weezy F. Baby under his belt, Birdman
returns with his third solo effort, 5 Star Stunna.
5 Star Stunna is propelled by its Lil Wayne
assisted single, Pop Bottles. Fueled by a slow, but high energy beat, Birdman
reminds us that he’s “lost too many friends, but won too many bets.” Weezy
F. steals the show on this track, which is sure to keep the clubs popping
bottles and players popping models well into the new year.
Unfortunately, business savvy does not always translate to
hits in the booth, with Birdman sounding like the new millennium Master
P. The album comes in at a hefty 22 tracks (3 skits, intro/outro, 2 bonus
tracks), which at times weigh down the disc. Despite Stunna’s solid
production, a lyricist Birdman is not, a fact fully on display on the
enjoyable Believe That (which also features a cameo by Lil Wayne).
“All about my penny like a muthafuckin loafer/I was into crack game before
baking soda/bitch I’m a OG, bitch I’m OG/I’m getting high off my money til I
OD” he spits over the track. It’s on the more mellow tracks that Birdman–lyrical
deficiencies and all–is at his best. The closing song, RIP, fills the
obligatory “tribute to the homies who ain’t here” song that most Hip Hop albums
have. Birdman shouts out his family and friends no longer inhabiting the
earth backed by a sped up vocal sample and a bass line suited more for
contemporary Gospel than the club. The Cash Money president and CEO
shines on this track–and the album would’ve been much better with more
emotional songs such as this one.
Where Birdman falters lyrically, his guest
appearances at times, pick up the slack. Fat Joe makes an appearance on Make
Way, and Lil Wayne–who is quickly becoming Hip Hop’s new go to guy
for catchy hooks–experiments with a new delivery style. 100 Million is
the posse cut of the album, and while the track features more of the
materialism that saturates the album, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, Dre
and Lil Wayne hold their own (now if we could only get DJ Khaled
to stop yelling over the tracks).
In the age of the download, dope beats aren’t nearly enough
to keep an album relevant. Birdman brings nothing new to the tried and true
tales of hustling (Fully Loaded), cars (Wet Paint–a sure joy for
women’s rights advocates), and money (The Money) fall flat. Five Star Stunna will satisfy those who look for
little more than something that “bumps in the ride” but those looking for a
complete Hip Hop album will be left looking for another 5 Star General for
their iPods or stereos.