5 * Stunna
After helping to engineer the Cash Money sound that redefined New Orleans rap in the ‘90s, Birdman relocated to Miami and 5 * Stunna is the first album-length reflection of his immersion in the Florida lifestyle. Whereas Mannie Fresh’s signature Cash Money formula was based on skittering percussion and rapid-fire delivery, Miami producers like Cool & Dre, StreetRunner and the Fliptones specialize in opulent beats that gleam with layers of synthesizer and organ. Miami rap isn’t just about money, it’s about enormous money, and “100 Million,” “Pop Bottles,” and “I’m A Stunna” all embody CEO levels of wealth. Still Birdman raps in a voice that makes him a Dirty South everyman. He rarely sounds extraordinary, but he never sounds bad, and when matched with the right tracks, as he is on “Fully Loaded,” “Believe Dat,” and “Head Busta,” the results are about as great as straightforward Southern hip-hop gets. For the times when listeners want to spice up the proceedings, Birdman packs a secret weapon in the form of Lil Wayne. Like every point man, Wayne appears only when needed, but when he jumps into the fray on “So Tired,” “I Run This” and “Grind,” the excitement level increases tenfold.