Review: ‘Tough Kids’

Hip-hop’s latest power duo, New Boyz, has been working overtime since the release of their chart-topping single “You’re a Jerk” in 2009. Since then, the YouTube video for the song has received more than 60 million views, and the New Boyz’ debut album, “Skinny Jeans and a Mic,” has produced several Billboard hits. Now, with the release of their sophomore album, “Too Cool to Care” on May 17, the question is whether or not the boys can continue their winning streak. Their preview single, “Backseat,” has already skyrocketed to the top of the charts with its synth-heavy, guilty-pleasure beats. But New Boyz falters with its latest release, the disappointing “Tough Kids.”

The New Boyz – which, by the way, is actually a duo formed by 17 year olds Ben J and Legacy – makes it clear that “Too Cool to Care” is a departure from their old style (the “jerkin’” movement, as they call it). Whereas their last album was defined by the playful catchiness heard in “You’re a Jerk,” their new music is an attempt to fuse together hardcore hip-hop, rap, pop, and “electro-club”.

This is where the New Boyz fall flat. “Tough Kids” leaves all of the whimsy and swagger of their past hits behind, and replaces this with screechy, repetitive beats; it’s obvious that they’re supposed to make the Boyz seem cool and powerful, but instead, it comes off as irritatingly cocky.

It doesn’t help that these puffed-up beats and arrogant words are practically being drilled into your head. The lyrics of “Tough Kids” are standard at best and crass at worst. Between the endless talk about haters and swaggering proclamations of immortality (and yes, that is actually in the song), it becomes hard not to just tune out. This is probably wise, because it allows you to avoid such delightfully revolting lines as “My haters Pepto Bismol brings **** outta me.” This uncomfortable metaphor involving an antacid medication is awful, but sadly, it marks the high point of “Tough Kids” lyrics’ originality.

If you’re looking for more of the same – perhaps to add to the background of a cliche sports movie, or to add to an unending mix CD to listen to at the gym – then you might find some worth in the New Boyz’ latest song. The rest of us will simply be scratching our heads, wondering where this once-promising duo went wrong. This doesn’t mean we should give up on the Boyz – it’s not called the ‘sophomore slump’ for nothing, right? Still, we’ll stick to jerkin’ until Ben J and Legacy give us something new to be excited about.