The evolution of Lyfe Jennings was bound to happen. With his authentic, soulful voice, innovative, creative style and undeniable talent, Lyfe is ready for a change. He’s ready to establish an even deeper connection with his fans and garner new ones. He has grown and his latest album proves it.
“The album is called Change because I’m changing it up a bit,” explains Lyfe. “In the past I didn’t work with different producers, I produced and wrote most of my albums by myself. But on this project I actually worked with different producers and a few writers.”
The 11-track album, slated to be released late this year, features Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne, Wyclef Jean (who wrote “Wild, Wild, Wild”), and two of Lyfe’s protégés, rapper Doc Black and singer Gritz. Producers include The Underdogs, Rich “Killa” Keller and Jean. He decided to work with more people on this album to add a diverse, eclectic spin to Change. “Everybody has their own genre of music and their own audience,” he expresses. “By working with different people, naturally I am able to tap into those different genres and audiences.”
Lyfe, a native of Toledo, Ohio, entered the music world in 2004 after the release of his critically acclaimed, platinum debut Lyfe 268-192. Hailed as gritty and raw, the album created devoted fans from everywhere. With its brutally honest lyrics, Lyfe walked listeners down his rough, turbulent road, brilliantly giving them an edgy autobiographical history lesson that made many able to relate to him. He captured an even broader audience last year with his sophomore effort, The Phoenix, which expanded on his story, taking listeners through different phases of a man with new fame and money. The Phoenix featured the smash hit and cautionary tale, “S-E-X,” and made him a household name.
But what makes this album different from Lyfe 268-192 or The Phoenix is that Lyfe has matured and he’s ready to take his life and music career in a different direction. He also opted not to include his signature story interludes. “I wanted people to just flow from song to song,” explains Jennings. On this album, he’s looking forward to showing how he’s evolved. “People have become accustomed to me singing about sad stuff. When they listen to my albums, usually they’re in their car or they’re at home doing something,” he says. “But I added some up tempo songs to this album, so some of them can be played in the clubs, some of them are happy and funny, but there are some serious songs as well.” Lyfe admits that he didn’t do a lot of planning for the album, which is definitely hard to tell from its exquisitely written ballads, melodic beats and the remarkable vibe of the entire album. “I wanted Change to be a fly album. I just went in the studio and just liked kicked it and came up with the songs.” The first single “Cops Up,” is a fast-paced love tale that’ll move any crowd. “My heart is definitely with the ballads,” Lyfe confesses. “But you have to mix and match. With ‘Cops Up’ the hook is great, the beat is great, and I think it’s a song that these kids could get into. And I think it will allow me to expand my young audience even more.”
“She’s The Ish,” is a fast-paced celebration of special confident women. It’s a story told with a spirit of fun and reality delivered with sincerity. “My heart is definitely with the ballads,” Lyfe confesses. “But you have to mix and match. With ‘She’s The Ish’ the hook is great, the beat is great, and I think it’s a song that's ageless And I think it will allow me to expand my young audience more.” On “It’s Real,” and “Wild, Wild, Wild,” Lyfe masterfully discusses touchy subjects affecting the community such as AIDS, with his classic straightforward style and message-filled, reality-based lyrics. On “Midnight Train” and “Never, Never Land,” Lyfe does what he does best—deliver rich, euphonic ballads, guaranteed to tug at anyone’s heart strings.
In the midst of it all, Lyfe is enjoying his successful career, but handling it smartly and professionally. He has added businessman to his singer/songwriter/producer resume, becoming CEO of his own label, Jesus Swings, with a deal through Universal and Motown Records. The musical virtuoso is looking forward to wearing many hats. “I don’t really do the celebrity thing, you know, hanging at industry parties. I got two sons and during my free time I try to be with those boys,” says the devoted father of sons, Phoenix and Elijah.
But if Lyfe could change one thing, it would be the way some people still react to him. “Sometimes people know about my background and about the trouble I was in, so they’re intimidated by me,” he points out. “When I have a conversation with them, they’re trying to match the persona of who they think I’m supposed to be—this tough guy who did all this time in prison,” he says. “They say things like, ‘Yeah, I’m a hood dude too.’ And that immediately kills the mood and alters the relationships that I could have had with these people. I’m a regular person who likes to play basketball, go to clubs with my guys, play with my kids and work. I’m not an institutionalized thug.”
Lyfe is ready to move on and focus on the future. The world is about to meet the grown, fun, sexy Lyfe. He's anxious to expand internationally with his new album, new label and artists, as well as upcoming movies and soundtracks on the horizon, maybe even a rap career (“Before being a singer or anything else, I’m a lyricist and rapping is a lyrical game”), Lyfe is cleverly reinventing himself.
“I’m just trying to do something classic,” he says, “something that can be remade in 20 years.” And so the evolution of Lyfe begins.