After getting released from a ten year prison sentence for arson, I can’t help but to find it ironic that Lyfe Jennings would go on to set something else on fire. The difference? This time, it was his debut album, Lyfe 268-192 that caught fire from intense amounts of soul and some of the most honestly devout storytelling of the last decade. To even call it an album I feel does this body of work a slight injustice. Lyfe crafted a conversation set to the tune of music.
He assumes the first-person role of character and narrator as he delves into his version of a hustler’s love, or rather lust-turned-love story, ‘Must Be Nice’. Lyfe dismantles the hustler’s lifestyle and reinforces the thought of finding true love the only way a thug can, from experience. This experience-based reflection is where Lyfe separates himself from most. Instead of succumbing to natural R&B tropes he takes the time to really evaluate life and create songs that resist the pull of the mainstream.
The instrumentation is very much from a bygone era of sound. Consisting largely of a combination of guitar and uniquely rhythmic drums. The feeling of realism in consistent in every aspect of the project. Each song ends with an intimate narration that sets the stage for the following song, something like a preface someone would commit to at an alcoholics anonymous meeting. Love is lost and found in any number of ways in Lyfe’s life. He poetically traverses an acoustic guitar and the echoes of soft finger snaps on ‘Hypothetically’, which imagines the ‘what-ifs’ that are present in every relationship. The stresses of the relationship had proved too much for our storyteller as he learns to appreciate life outside a relationship on the funky and upbeat, ‘Smile’.
The gravity of real life problems is discerned on the almost bluesy, ‘Greedy’ which has Lyfe baring his private life and hiding from cops for a reason entirely different than we are used to hearing in music, child support. It is a very one-sided look at a highly complex issue but Lyfe makes it hard to hate him for dodging his bills after he explains the story through his lense. This dynamic exposes some of Lyfe’s faults and only helps to humanize him even further. Of everything I have already mentioned that makes this music so appealing, nothing does more for this man than his voice. Why you ask? Simple, Lyfe’s voice is one of a kind. It’s paradoxical in the sense that it retains a weighty grittiness while consistently sounding smooth. It’s sandpaper lined in silk and rarely has struggle ever sounded so easy and oh so good.