“I started my own label ’cause I am my own man.” Prior to reporting back to Fulton County Jail, Gucci Mane declared this statement on his Cold War trilogy mixtape. In actuality, however, there aren’t many names in Hip-Hop who this describes better than Bryan “Baby/Birdman” Williams. From the hoods of New Orleans to the head of a multi-million dollar corporation, it is undeniable Stunna has become one of the most successful businessmen in the genre’s history, controversy and all. With the release of Pricele$$, his fourth solo album and first since 2007’s 5* Stunna, Birdman finds his Cash Money/Young Money imprint at its second commercial peak. This is none the more evident with features from Drake and Lil’ Wayne littered throughout.
Lyrical range and the ability to carry a record by himself have never been Birdman’s most endearing qualities. Before clicking play, understanding the majority of the lyrics will revolve around money, stunting and Blood gang references make for an easier listen. Such is the case with “Been About Money,” one of the LP’s few solo tracks. Moving right along, the 106 & Park staple, “Money To Blow,” serves as the listeners’ re-acclamation to Hip-Hop’s newest tag team, Weezy and Drizzy. Whether it was strategic or purely coincidental, the Cash Money CEO manages to find himself lost in the mix between Drake’s verse and Weezy’s epiphany (“We gon’ be alright if we put Drake on every hook…”). The title track, “Priceless,” is obviously Rebirth inspired as Baby rhymes over a rock-type instrumental with Weezy providing an Auto-Tuned chorus.
“4 My Town (Play Ball)” proves to be a hit in the making. With Boi-1da providing the foundation, Drake doing what he usually does, Wayne dropping several witty bars (“It’s Young Money like Ben Franklin’s baby pictures…”), all Baby really had to do was show up with a coherent verse and he’d have yet another smash to add to his résumé. “Hustle,” which features Gudda and Lil’ Wayne, showcases a change of pace as far as subject matter is concerned as the three spill vocals on the side of success not normally seen by the naked eye. “Mo Milly” with guest vocals from Drake and Bun B, could arguably be the best song on the album. Aside from extremely impressive verses from the aforementioned two, Birdman actually lays his best verse on the album thanks in part to another Boi-1da production.
Pricele$$ comes to a close with the surprisingly enjoyable “I Want It All” featuring Lil’ Wayne and Kevin Rudolf and the remix to the single “Always Strapped” with Mack Maine and Lil’ Wayne, again. By this point, it is clearly evident the Cash Money CEO doesn’t mind being overshadowed on records, as long as the check has his name on it at the end of the day. Certainly there’s a reservation of contempt for a man surrounded by highlights he obviously has nothing to do with. Especially when attempting to create the best album money can buy and still coming up with loose change evidenced in the lackluster T-Pain assisted, “Shinin,'” who seems to have hit a rut after his disagreement with Jay-Z earlier this year.
Truthfully speaking, Birdman’s best albums came when he was paired alongside Mannie Fresh as apart of the Big Tymers. Not to be confused with Like Father, Like Son (And Like Nephew with the addition of Drake), Birdman obviously understands using his connections in the industry and uses them to his advantage. It is because of this Pricele$$ manages to keep some of its net worth in tow.