While no one has really ever expected much out of the Young Gunz, their debut offering "Tough Luv" is one of the pleasant surprises of the young year. Chris & Neef are not the most dynamic of partners, but with good production and guidance the duo has managed to pull of an extremely solid album.
Young Chris has always been the key to the Young Gunz since day one. The up and coming youngster shows a lot of potential throughout "Tough Luv", as he consistently drops solid verses, making up for Neef's complete lack of talent. Chris easily steals the entire album with his amazing solo joint "North Of Death", a moody and melodic offering where Chris discusses the pain and hardships of not only the Hip Hop industry but life itself. On the soulful "Time" the Young Gunz reminiscence about the struggles coming up and all the adversity they had to go through just to make it on top. Its efforts like these that prove the Young Gunnaz can do more than talk a good game. Another one of these standout songs is the title track "Tough Luv", where Chris and Neef go back and forth discussing their own relationship as friends and business partners. Chris especially sends a strong message to Neef, as the leader and more focused member of the group tells his young companion to basically step his game up in order for the group to benefit. "I weren't even thinking bout rap until I met you, and thank you for that. And now you got us looking like Jaz & Jay, T-Mac and Carter Neef, gotta work harder Neef. Shit...we running with S. Carter Neef. Dame & Biggs, get on your game my nig. The whole clique feel the same my nig. So don't think cuz I'm ahead of you I changed my nig". You have to give both Chris and Neef credit for having the courage to release a song the likes of "Tough Luv", which delves inside the personal dealings of the group.
Besides the good amount of variety on the album, the Young Gunz are still capable of making solid street music. "R.O.C. U" features a vicious performance from Beanie Sigel that has not been seen since his last LP "The Reason". With jail time staring him directly in the face, it seems as if Beanie is back to his old hungry self. The Scott Storch produced "Never Take Me Alive" is another sure fire street anthem that features a decent verse from Jay-z. However, the production is enough to get the track by, no matter Jigga's performance. Other club attempts "Friday Night" and "Problemz" are put together nicely as well, especially on the production side. Chris seems to flow a lot smoother and easier on tracks like these, as compared to Neef who sounds completely out of place when he tries to speed up his flow.
While "Tough Luv" certainly remains consistent for the most part, there are a couple of filler tracks that ultimately take away from the albums flow. The Hall & Oates sampled "Rich Girlz" is nothing short of dismal, thanks to a forced production effort and an equally bad Juelz Santana verse. "I went from bad girl to rich girl, that girl to this girl. I ain't care if that girl was his girl. That girl would get twirled, wrapped up in a pimp swirl". Fellow Dipset member Cam'ron also offers a similar embarrassing effort with his appearance on "Look In Your Eyes". The remix of "Can't Stop Won't Stop" featuring Chingy is another unnecessary edition to the album, as the remix fails to compare to the original. "Take It How U Want It" featuring Sparks is another disappointing effort, due to a bad effort behind the boards and the mic.
Whether you’re a fan of the Young Gunz or not, "Tough Luv" is an album sure to catch you by surprise. Most fans expected a train wreck, but instead received a solid album that exceeds all expectations. With good production and Young Chris progressing nicely as an emcee, "Tough Luv" is one of the sleeper albums of the year. And while they may not be the future of the Roc, they will certainly garner a lot more respect from here on out.