Continuing their musical ambush on record stores, RocafellaRecords presents Young Gunz to the masses, a fresh-faced duohailing from the streets of Philadelphia.
With the debut disc Tough Luv, Young Gunz are the latest membersof the Rocafella family to bless listeners with an album, followingrecent notable releases from Jay-Z, Memphis Bleek and KanyeWest.
The MC tandem, rappers Chris and Neef, have been able toslightly imprint their names in the minds of listeners over thepast few years through appearances on various Rocafella albums, aswell as their allegiance to State Property, a Philadelphiasuper-group of rhyme-spitters founded by Beanie Sigel.
It wasn’t until their admirably simplistic single “Can’t Stop,Won’t Stop” hit radio and television airwaves that Young Gunzbecame somewhat of a household name, bringing both attention toState Property’s sophomore album and speculation into whether Chrisand Neef had what it takes to lead their Rocafella brethren intothe post-Jay-Z era.
Tough Luv is an album aimed at both the streets and the clubs,following the all-too familiar format of hood-reality raps foundalongside radio-friendly tales of love and partying.
Chris and Neef each have distinct flows that separate one fromthe other in listener’s ears. Both convey their words withconfidence and charisma, traits needed for new rappers to succeedin the hip-hop game.
The songs that prove to be the most effective are those whereChris and Neef approach the microphone with aggression andenthusiasm. Producer Just Blaze provides an old-school inspiredsound to “Friday Night,” an ode to the weekend nightlife powered bya familiar yet catchy chorus. The good times proceed on “$$$Girlz,” where Juelz Santana joins the Young Gunz over a bouncy Halland Oates sample.
The highlight of Tough Luv’s uptempo numbers is “No BetterLove,” the album’s current hit single. Pledges of love andallegiance to the special females in the lives of each MC life aredelivered with equal amounts of skill and emotion. Their verses,along with the strong vocals on the hook by Rell and ChadHamilton’s smooth production, make “No Better Love” one of thebetter light-hearted rap singles in recent memory.
“Look In Your Eyes” is a complete change of mood, with it’sdarkly sinister beat and haunting vocal samples serving as aperfect backdrop for the Young Gunz and guest Cam’Ron to serveenemies audio threats. Sigel aids his young proteges on therough-edged “Roc U,” while Rocafella’s crown jewel Jay-Z manages tosteal the show on cinematic “Never Take Me Alive,” produced by theunderrated and often neglected Scott Storch.
The two standouts on the album, the title track and “Life WeChose,” rise above the rest due to the honesty and fullintrospection found within their running times. The title track,”Tough Luv,” finds Chris calling his partner Neef out about hislack of focus over an intense offering by Just Blaze. Neef respondsto Chris’ words with obvious appreciation, making this track onefull of creativity and admirable openness.
“Life We Chose” is another emotional listen, forcing thelistener to feel the words of Chris and Neef as they reveal boththe regret and joy they have in their respective lives.
When Chris and Neef unfortunately conform to conventional raptrends, though, Tough Luv loses it’s sense of sincerity andmomentarily experiences forgettable moments. The generic productionfound on tracks like “Take It How U Want It” and “Problemz” comeoff just as uninspired and contrived as the dismissible rhymescontributed by the Young Gunz. “Grown Man” suffers from a boringbeat and monotonous boasts targeted to prospective lady”friends.”
Rather than ending the album on a strong and memorable note,Chris and Neef draw the curtains with an unnecessary remix of”Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” featuring MTV’s favorite clich�rapper Chingy. Chingy’s ad-libs on the chorus and substance-freeverse take away from the song’s original appeal and turn it into aclear attempt at more radio spins for the Young Gunz.
By the end of these 17-tracks, Tough Luv is successful in itsmain purpose: introducing the commercial public to a duo ofappealing and likeable voices. Without breaking any new creativeground, the Young Gunz should be able to sell a sufficient amountof records and further strengthen the Rocafella family’s hold onthe hip-hop market.
If selling records is their main goal, then more power to Chrisand Neef. Maybe next time around they will follow the lead oflabel-mate Kanye West and attempt to separate themselves from therest of their Rocafella counterparts.