Lyfe 268-192

Studio Album by released in 2004

Lyfe 268-192 review

It's hard to ignore the man formerly known as Chester Jennings' unusual road to success. It started with 10 years in prison on an arson-related charge. A prison stint gave Chester "Lyfe" Jennings time to write songs about the kind of everyday complexities that are far from the prevalent "bling-bling" hip-hop lifestyle. Jennings keeps the idea of past mistakes right up front by recycling his assigned prison number for his debut album title LYFE 268-192. Opening with an intro and going right into a talky interlude, you just know it is a heavy-with-message, ambitious album that's going to flirt with ponderous disaster. Quit worrying, because what Lyfe Jennings has to say is worth hearing, well presented for the most part, and you only have to excuse some overeagerness.

The Toledo, Ohio native uses spoken-word interludes in between hip-hop/soul songs that touch on child-support issues (Greedy), street-life survival (Stick Up Kid) and finding solace in the Lord (Made Up My Mind). Rich, Quiet Storm-flavored grooves dominate these arrangements, and, with a pliable vocal style that falls somewhere between Al Green and Marvin Gaye, the former choirboy readily impresses. When Jennings isn't pondering whether he should get involved with a mom raising babies (She Got Kids), he's hashing out infidelity issues with a lover who might have gotten pregnant in the process (Hypothetically). Further bridging the gap between old- and new-school R&B is Jenning's sample of the Four Tops' Ain't No Woman (Like the One I Got) for the uplifting Smile. There are numerous intro's, interludes, skits and monologues, and whilst on most albums these serve little or no purpose other than to prevent you from listening to the music. On this creation they do serve a purpose, in that they are the threads that weave together this musical tapestry. This is not just a random collection of songs, but a thoughtful selection, chosen to tell his story in the finest way. Having written played and produced every track on the project it's safe to say that he can take full credit for what this album will accomplish in the months and years to come. If you are tired of the predictable and quite glossy state of R&B that it is now, buy LYFE 268-192.

The Neo-Soul movement has a new player in the game. It was during his ten-year sentence in prison that Lyfe Jennings developed his honest sound, thanks to isolation and Erykah Badu. His musical aspirations started in the church choir and grew in the Dotsons, a teenaged group that Lyfe formed with his brother and a couple cousins. Prison made his music deeper according to Lyfe, and when a copy of Erykah Badu's Baduizm ended up in his cell in 1997, he was inspired and had the feeling this introspective edge to his music was worth developing. Two days after his December 2002 release from prison he was recording a four-song demo CD. The day after that he was performing live in a club. He only had a month of freedom before he was on-stage at the famous Apollo. Lyfe figures he sold a thousand copies of his four-song demo CD during his Apollo "residency." That and a ton of calls from promoters and record label execs on his answering machine back in Ohio influenced Lyfe to move to New York City and pursue a major label deal. Columbia released his debut, LYFE 268-192 in August of 2004. It is a promising debut from a huge talent who seems well on the road to the redemption he seeks.