January 12, 2007
July 11, 2010
Hip Hop, R&B, Soul
Music comes from the soul...Also it comes from the...struggle..
Total Songs Added:
Lyfe Jennings has always possessed confidence. Even while Lyfe's body was held prisoner for ten years behind steel bars and concrete, his mind and soul were free, the power of his imagination opening the gates to the world outside the penitentiary. While serving his sentence and paying his debt to society, Lyfe never lost the ability to focus on what mattered most to him: music. With the release of The Phoenix, his much-anticipated sophomore album, Lyfe Jennings opens his heart and shares a new collection of finely-rendered reality-based songs, portraits of life drawn from experience and seen through the eyes and soul of a poet.
Lyfe, a native of Toledo, Ohio, became a presence in the R&B community with the release of his platinum debut album Lyfe 268-192 in 2004 and since then he's remained true to his music. "When I was locked up, my hustle was crazy," he remembers. "All day I was either writing, talking about it [music] or reading books about it, so when I got out, it was the same hustle as when I was in the joint." Since the release of his debut, Lyfe spent a lot of time on the road, relocated to Atlanta from New York, and had a son named Phoenix. "Having a son definitely makes you more responsible," acknowledges the urban poet. "I've definitely been thinking about the future more, patience goes up. You're in love, a different kind of love."
The ancient phoenix is a symbol of rebirth, resurrection or renewal in many mythologies including Egyptian, Greek, and Chinese. When the phoenix's life cycle is coming to a close, the bird builds and ignites its own nest and both bird and nest are reduced to ashes, from which a new phoenix rises. Like the mythological bird which inspired it, Lyfe's new album represents "another chapter in my life that I've come through."
Lyfe's first album was the first chapter in his odyssey, the story of his prison life and subsequent release. The Phoenix is chapter two, picking up where Lyfe 268-192 left off and showing Lyfe's experiences in new dimensions. "Obviously I got out, and I was running around experiencing different things," says the author. "Because you have some kind of fame, that kind of overshadows your day-to-day thing. I'm talking about that. I also talk about the music thing too because that's part of my life. I'm just trying to show the 10 years I went through, the BS, the good times, the bad, that's what it is."
Written by Lyfe and co-produced by Lyfe with Rhemario "Rio" Webber, The Phoenix is a set of starkly realistic tales inspired by the lives of everyday people. "S-E-X" finds Lyfe identifying with a 16-year-old girl who looks a lot more mature than she actually is and telling things straight from a man's perspective. "I just started thinking, 'How do females feel with they look grown up and get so much attention but a lot of times, that attention is misconstrued?," he conjectures. "She might be thinking, 'the dude has a valid interest in me.' But, when a guy's 25, how much of a valid interest can he have in a teenage girl? It's really about the S-E-X."
While Lyfe has been influenced by R&B greats such as Anita Baker, Patti LaBelle, Shirley Caesar and R. Kelly, he's also been inspired by the rawness of hip-hop. "A lot of artists don't have the opportunity to tell a story because they are so focused on the beat," says Lyfe. "I feel like I am rapping when I'm singing." The groovy, heavy drum sound on the retooling of 2Pac's "Keep Ya Head Up" finds Lyfe bridging the worlds of R&B and hip-hop while harmonizing Pac's poetic lyricism.
Lyfe pulls out some heavy electric guitar moves on "Biggie N****," an homage to the master of hip-hop narratives that inspired Lyfe to chronicle his own experiences. "The song is a tribute to the god Biggie because he's a storyteller," Lyfe admits, "and he's the reason why I'm a storyteller. His strong suit to me was that he told a story so that it stuck, so I used that. You're this big huge, street dude just like Biggie. Whether your come up is the music or the hustling, whatever it is, your struggle is the same as Biggie's. If you're working hard like he worked hard, then you're a 'Biggie n****.'"
With his music, Lyfe hopes to inspire others. "The way I learned, I'm kind of a slow dude, so I learned the way it makes sense to me," he says. "I figured there's at least one other person out there who learns like that. So I wanted it to make sense and have it in the proper context so the person that went through it, they're looking at it as a snap shot. So they can see the whole picture listening to the album, see if they can turn that around and try a different route cuz they know where it got me."
Love and live instrumentation lie at the heart of The Phoenix, because according to Lyfe, "it's relational." The lone piano chord on "Goodbye" nails the bittersweet qualities of love grown cold when Lyfe sings, "Neither one of us wants to be the first to say goodbye." According to Lyfe, "I think everybody has been through this situation. I was going through that in my life, and it's a time. Y'all breaking up, it's just that y'all out grew each other. Nobody did nothing wrong, y'all are growing into two different people, and it just happens. It's so true."
A flip-side of love's complexities is revealed on "Let's Stay Together." "Sometimes you think you outgrew somebody and one person's goals and dreams in life shouldn't be your goals and dreams in life," Lyfe admits. "You should encourage them, but you can't make somebody else's life into your life." "Don't do it for the kids," the song's lyrics suggest, "I'm tired of all this making up and breaking up. If we hold on and ask God for direction," the song indicates that everything might be worked out.
"The River," perhaps the most poignant track on The Phoenix, is a gospel-flavored track using a live choir to help Lyfe express his mental and spiritual longing and rejuvenation. "I was spiritually dehydrated so I had to go back to the river," he says. "You get to livin' the life and people say stuff like, 'Don't get caught up in it.' But if you don't live it, you'll also be lusting after it, that's what I believe. Everything you have to do has to be in moderation. I was living the life for a while then I saw myself scared, getting detached, just around doin' what n***** do. I was seriously dehydrated. I wasn't reading no more. I wasn't joining in church in conversations no more. They say the BS ain't nothing, and that's the truth, but I was leaning toward the BS and towards the nothing. When I came out of prison, you couldn't tell me I wasn't something, it's just my ideology was different, my practices were different."
Lyfe had to reconnect with himself and re-establish sane boundaries with the world. The self-control, moderation and balance he continues to seek and achieve is as vital to his spirit as his music is therapeutic to his soul. "It's the difference between life and death," he confesses. "When I was in prison doing 10 years, I mean you get down, you get depressed, some days seem like they are all bad, and I could write about it, it was an outlet. But it wasn't just an outlet, but the healing and the greatness comes from being able to share it with somebody else and you find out that somebody else went through the same s*** you went through. That let's you know I'm not a liar, and 9 times out of 10, somebody has a solution to it, and there's hope for me now. There's hope to let people hear this."
As people listen to and connect with The Phoenix, Lyfe Jennings hopes to leave a legacy of hope with his raw, real life brand of creativity. He doesn't care whether people remember his name or not, but admits that "one of my biggest dreams is to have somebody ten or twenty years from now to be remaking some of my songs. That's really what I would like." Lyfe has opened the door for other artists to create legacies of their own with his company Jesus Swings.
Lyfe's artist development project includes the singer LaLa (who is featured on "S-E-X") and the rappers Doc Black and Cornell. "Everybody coming out of this company is going to be able to tell their story responsibly," Lyfe says about the message that inspired the name of Lyfe's company. "Everybody goes through ups and downs just like the swing, but again, some people just talk about the negative part of it. The negative needs to be heard, but the positive needs to be heard too. Jesus talked about the negative and the positive and he always told the story responsibly."
With The Phoenix, Lyfe Jennings has made the boldest and most confident music of his career, a new musical and spiritual chapter.
ThisIs50.com Interviews Lyfe
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For more pictures of Lyfe's photo shoot for Giant Magazine click here!