released August 31st, 2010

from the album - Statistics

from all music


Not that he'd wish it on anyone, but it was during his ten-year sentence in prison that Lyfe Jennings developed his honest sound, thanks to isolation and Erykah Badu. It was an arson charge that put the Toledo, OH, native in prison. 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 that 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. He was booed when he walked on-stage with an acoustic guitar, but when the Apollo audience heard his gritty falsetto and lyrical songwriting, they were swayed — swayed to the tune of five amateur-night victories in a row. Lyfe figures he sold a thousand copies of his four-song demo CD during his Apollo "residency." That, along with 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 had the right offer and released his debut, Lyfe 268-192 (his inmate number), in August of 2004. A year after its original release, the album was reissued with a new version of "Hypothetically" featuring American Idol winner Fantasia added as a bonus track. The more hip-hop-oriented follow-up, The Phoenix, arrived in 2006, with Three 6 Mafia and Young Buck making guest appearances. Lyfe Change, released two years later, featured a handful of new production associates, as well as a verse from T.I. Jennings began working on another album, tentatively titled Sooner or Later, which he stated would be his last. It finally appeared in 2010 as I Still Believe and featured guest spots from Bryan-Michael Cox, Warryn Campbell, Fabolous, Bobby Valentino, Ludacris, Anthony Hamilton and Jazmine Sullivan.

Album Review

Before its release, Lyfe Jennings announced his fourth album would also be his final album. That’s a heartbreaker for those who seek out positive, mature soul music, but I Still Believe makes sense as an end point. The grit and despair of his debut, Lyfe 268-192, has given way to hope and warmth, plus the prison number referenced in that 2004 album’s title seems like a distant memory since every lyric here comes from a man seemingly reformed. As such, he’s not as connected to the dirty streets as he used to be, and his references to pain and suffering are more observational, although he most definitely “feels” it all. Take the highlight “Statistics,” which uses percentages and cold hard facts to explain that a good man isn’t just hard to find, they’re almost extinct. When the uplifting, gospel-inspired “I Still Believe” sings the praises of family and peace, you can tell it’s because Lyfe has recently benefitted from such wholesome things, and there’s every indication that the ending relationship discussed in the memorable slow jam “Busy” will leave the singer heartbroken, not devastated. Fans from the early days might miss Jennings’ vivid descriptions of life’s seedy side, but shifting from tears of sadness to tears of joy has made for a compelling arc over four albums. With the soulful music and honest lyrics as strong as ever and all the wisdom he gained on the streets intact, it’s all a matter of how much you appreciate happy endings.

Track Listing

1 Statistics 3:25
2 Love 3:20
3 It Coulda Been Worse 3:31
4 Spotlight 3:22
5 Busy 2:59
6 Whatever She Wants 3:53
7 Mama 3:14
8 Hero 3:17
9 I Still Believe 3:22
10 Learn From This 3:43
11 Done Crying 2:55
12 If I Knew Then, What I Know Now 3:35
13 If Tomorrow Never Comes 4:13