Tough Luv

Artist: Young GunzTitle: Tough LuvRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: StaX Soul<font face="verdana" size="2"

Any new artist on a major label, let alone part of a self-proclaimed dynasty, has a huge burden to contend with on their debut release. Not being of the breed to run from a challenge, the Young Gunz (Philly emcee Young Chris and Neef Buck) begin their debut opus, Tough Luv, with the daringly titled "Future of the ROC" in a bid to assert themselves as next in line to the throne that a certain multi-platinum selling artist has left vacant upon his retirement.

One could be forgiven for letting out a wry smirk at the irony that is the presence of the aforementioned star on arguably the best track of the LP. "Never Take Me Alive", finds Chris and Neef trading rhymes alongside mentor Jay Z with Just Blaze providing another epic canvas reminiscent of those from his lesser known days as producer to Buckshot of Black Moon. The title track proves itself to be yet another standout, with singer Denim providing a haunting chorus which will undoubtedly take the listener back to the hook of The Spooks' "Things I've Seen" before closing out with the "Can't Stop, Won't Stop" remix featuring Chingy, a track that is sure to keep both the club goers and high school girls amongst us content.

The album becomes a stage for Young Chris to give his "…best Jay Z rendition" sharing adlibs and vocal inflections aplenty with Hov, whilst lacking the same lyrical tenacity that made the likes of Reasonable Doubt and The Blueprint classic material. That said it does fit nicely into the generic mold that many hip hop artists take up today, aided by the roster of names that make up the production credits (EZ Elpee, Bink!). It is a safe album, not pushing barriers nor raising the bar but remaining content amongst the mediocrity, rather than the aristocracy, of the genre.

It is troubling when the supposed future finds itself rehashing the same ideas, and even lyrics, that its predecessor did but a few years earlier. As their names suggest, time is on their side but one is left to wonder how long the Hip-hop fan, never renowned for his patient demeanor will be willing to wait for that development. Given that Just Blaze and Kanye West are very much in their prime, commanding work from the biggest artists at a price to match, if the Young Gunz can't quite succeed now the question lingers; will they ever be successors to the Roc-a-Fella throne? One reviewer still has his reservations…