Birdman is a philanthropist of sorts. Adopting the young Dwayne Carter (you probably know him as Lil’ Wayne) because of Carter’s absentee father and his teenage mother, Birdman took the impressionable boy under his wing and helped turn him into the self-proclaimed, and often critically-hailed, “best rapper alive.” Plus, the Cash Money figurehead seems unquestionably supportive of women of the night. Philanthropist (philanderer), no doubt.

But never has it appeared as though Birdman (a.k.a. Baby), the proverbial teacher, was anything more than an inferior student to his masterful understudy. As such, in the face of the virtual crumbling of Cash Money proper (the label is now more disjointed than ever, with the collective artists rarely associating with one another), Birdman has continued to produce lackluster records while Wayne has shot up the charts. It’s no surprise, then, that Birdman’s latest release 5 Star Stunna – rather unfortunately named – is bursting with slothful flows and dry metaphors.

Carried throughout the disc is the all-too-frequent Italian mob trope. Nearly a quarter of the 22 tracks are skits discussing loyalty and keeping your composure. Its repetition is almost too much to bear at this point in the Cash Money catalog, but it’s what’s expected when Birdman has recycled the same lines for years.

And yet, even with the overarching, obnoxious theme, 5 Star Stunna is strangely gripping, demanding more replay than most discs. This is mostly due to the soaring club beats, something Birdman has always been able to capitalize on (see The Neptunes-produced “What Happened To That Boy” on Baby aka the #1 Stunna). The frying synths on the epic “100 Million” are reminiscent of those on DJ Khaled’s “We Takin’ Over,” while the song’s construction (featuring headliners like Lil’ Wayne and Rick Ross) is similarly expansive. Unfortunately, the track falls short – aside from the gorgeous chorus – as only Young Jeezy produces any quality lines.

Continuing this trend, the beat on the sample-ridden “Believe Dat” is undeniably great. Sliding along sustained violin strings, Lil’ Wayne shows his proficiency at singing hooks, all while the vocal samples intertwine with his smooth croons. And for a change of pace, the violently sub-woofing “All the Time” pulls between woodblock taps and an ominous bass thump.

And yet, unfortunately, it’s tracks like “Wet Paint” and “We Gangsta” that stick in your mind at the album’s close. The former’s tasteless chorus “Pussy like paint / Pussy like candy” is not only awkward to listen to á la David Banner’s “Play,” but it’s also a repetitive and tired metaphor.

The album is also hindered because Birdman is little more than a functional MC. When a track doesn’t have any guest spots, which admittedly isn’t often, he pumps out the same recycled flows he’s used for years.

And yet, regardless of all its flaws, the disc seems filled with singles like “Pop Bottles,” “Love My Hood” and “Make Way.” Still, 5 Star Stunna is just another release in the queue keeping fans content until Wayne’s Tha Carter III drops. But the way things are going, eventually, one of these might actually live up to 5 Star Stunna’s ambitious title.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Birdman

5 Star Stunna

Universal

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