* Prices may differ from that shown
Lyfe Jennings is one of the Music's stories of changing your life for the better. In 1992, Lyfe Jennings went to prison for arson. Whilst in Prison he felt remorse and regret for what he had done and on release set about on the straight and narrow with Music. His first album "268-192" was named due to that number being his identification number in Prison. The album was released in 2004 and has sold 1.1 million copies in the US alone. It gave him a following from other stars in the R&B genre. It was re-issued in 2005 as a special edition with two new remix tracks featuring Nas and Fantasia Barrino. Jennings released an album every two years since the release of his debut up to 2010 making four studio albums.
The album was released on 29th April 2008, explaining the name Lyfe said "The album is called Lyfe Change because I'm changing it up a bit, 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 album features collaborations with Snoop Dogg, Wyclef Jean, T.I & Lil Wayne, Quan and Walter Butch. The album features production from The Underdogs, Steven Russell, Wyclef Jean & Jerry Wonda Duplessis, Logic and finally Luke & Q. The album features two singles "Cops Up" & "Never Never Land" which were oddly both released before the album was released.
1.) "Change the Game"
This is a short introduction to the album with a spoken part from Walter Butch, This is an interesting mafia style vocal tale about Lyfe's outlook. It's a decent enough opening to the album. It ends with "The guy who stays in the game the longest, is the guy who brings change".
2.) "Keep on Dreaming"
This is an excellent track which features an interpolation of Suzanne Vega's Tom's Diner which itself was reworked for the Tupac Shakur track "Dopefiend's Diner". This is an excellent use of the sample and features gentle piano and rock guitar alongside an R&B feel. This is a very promising start and Lyfe's vocals are smooth and expressive, he's backed well by the backing vocalists too. This track shows there's some good stuff on this album and hints at more to come.
This is a catchy mid tempo track which opens gently with some gentle guitar and then the beat comes in, It's about how he grew up in a tough neighbourhood and how he has changed throughout the years and how there are people you should stay clear of and work hard against the dangers. An excellent track with some great licks and again some great backing vocals that are smooth and add a great touch. There's an excellent guitar solo towards the end which really tops of the song.
4.) "Never Never Land"
This is an excellent ballad, it features a tough beat and some lovely keyboard tones, Lyfe's voice is expressive on this tale of settling down with someone you love and growing old together. This is one of the best tracks on the album and was one of two singles from the album reaching number 18 on the Billboards R&B Chart when it was released. It's one of the most flowing tracks on the album and also one it's probably up there with the best tracks he has done.
5.) "Brand New"
This is an excellent ballad, It reminds me of Avant vocally and in the overall style too. The backing vocals are excellent and the beats and hooks add a nice touch. The track features T.I who provides some excellent rap vocals. The original featured Lil Wayne but he was replaced by T.I at a later date and the latter appears on this song. I think the track works really well and is more laid back than some of T.I's material but he does a decent job as does Lyfe Jennings.
6.) "It's Real"
This is an excellent track which sounds superb. The track opens with whistles and military like drumming, then the electro beat comes in, the contrast from the music to the vocals is clear to hear and the smooth vocals add a nice touch. This is one that you might need to listen to a few times before it becomes clear but it is a decent track.
7.) "Cops Up"
This is a catchy track which opens with a taut laid back bass beat and then as the beats progress the keyboard sounds come in. This track is about the moment when your partner ends the relationship and you can't believe it and still love them and what to stay with them. This is a very catchy track, no surprise then that it was released as a single. The production from Luke & Q is excellent, The track was actually written for them but they ended up doing the production.
8.) "You think you've got it bad"
This is a lovely soulful ballad about when things go wrong and everyone doesn't see your own troubles too worried about their own. Wycelf Jean appears on this track and his laid back delivery really works well alongside the catchy beats and hooks. The smooth backing vocals also give a great touch. This is undoubtedly one of the best tracks on the album and develops well throughout. It's an excellent collaboration between Lyfe Jennings and Wyclef Jean.
9.) "Wild, Wild, Wild"
This is an excellent mid tempo ballad which reminds me a little of later Dru Hill. Lyfe Jenning's vocals are smooth and expressive and the backing vocals are very good too. This is another very good track which has a good flow and progresses well. the beats and hooks will please, as will the vocals. all round it's a rather good track which will have it's fans.
10.) "Midnight train"
This is a lovely change to the album, It's a lovely acoustic style ballad about leaving in the night to get away from things. This track really flows well and really provides a great platform for the expressive vocals which Lyfe Jennings provides. This is up there with the best on the album. I really love the way the music builds along with his vocals throughout the song. It's an excellent ballad that is one of his best of his career so far. Excellent stuff and it ends beautifully with a nice, gentle fade out.
This is a soulful ballad which opens with Lyfe's gentle humming the "Hmmm". The tough beat combines well with the smooth vocals from Lyfe and the electric guitar combines well with the vocals and beat to create an excellent sound-stage. It builds wonderfully and is perhaps the best track musically on the album with some fine guitar work and thumping beats. This is an excellent track which showcases the vocal talent of Lyfe Jenning's and also how he constructs a song.
12.) "Old School"
This is another excellent track, it features some great hooks and the beat is taut. Lyfe's vocals here are amongst the best on the album and he showcases the range of his voice with a gritty vocal then a fine falsetto. This track is about remembering good times from his childhood. The track features Snoop Dogg with a surprisingly decent laid back rap which keeps to the feel of the song. It might take a couple of listens to understand the track but it's a decent track.
13.) "Us" (Interlude)
This is a short interlude which features some fine singing from Lyfe. This leads into the final two tracks on the album. His voice sounds beautiful and expressive here. This would be a sensational song if it was longer and not just an interlude. One of the best interludes I've heard.
14.) "Will I Ever"
This is a live recording from a concert and features a roaring guitar and his fans screaming, This track sounds wonderful and is a superbly recorded track. This is one of the best tracks on the album and one of his best overall. It features superb backing vocals and is about wondering if you will ever find that someone special again. This track is perfectly crafted. Beautiful vocals, excellent music and superb progression. A superb track which has great emotion and his vocals here are amongst the best on the album. Superb. topped off by some superb guitar work. Some really outstanding vocals at the end too where his voice soars.
15.) "Baby I'm a star"
This is a catchy track which features "Quan". the track is about life know Lyfe Jennings has made it as a Music star after his early troubles with the Law. It's a very good up tempo track which has a good message and "Quan" surprisingly does a decent enough job on the track. It's a very catchy track with some great beats and hooks and overall ends the album well.
This is an excellent album which really showcases the talent Lyfe Jennings obviously has. His voice is expressive and very good indeed. I also like the way a lot of these songs build so he obviously has a talent for structuring the songs. The best tracks here are amongst the best of his career to date having released four albums. He's one of the best R&B artists around and doesn't get the credit he deserves for his music. Check him out and see what you think. He's a very talented artist.
When I heard the name Lyfe Jennings for the first time in recent weeks it immediately gave me the impression of a black soul artist, along the lines of what John Legend would be if he went undiscovered. To say Jennings, real name Chester, has gone undiscovered would be a slight insult to him though -- this is because the man already has two studio albums under his belt before finally coming under my radar with his third effort released in April 2008, 'Lyfe Change'. Sure, with a stage name like Lyfe his album titles were always going to be somewhat corny, I did have a hard time finding this album however as I was searching around for 'Lyfe Changes'. Clearly four years on from his original album, '268-192', Jennings must believe the change has already taken place. 2006's follow-up album, 'The Phoenix', became his most successful effort to date as it peaked at second place on the US Billboard. At almost thirty years-old they say you have to know the story behind a guy to be able to understand him, and that is why it is only fair to fill you in on why Lyfe Jennings is only beginning to get exposure now he's hitting the middle of his life. Jennings spent ten years of his life behind bars when he was jailed for arson at the tender age of 14 in Ohio. What he must have burnt down to get that sort of time for a crime you do not usually associate with such long prison stints is beyond me. During his time convicted Lyfe rekindled his faith in God, just as many others do and we have heard the likes of Kanye West express their religious beliefs through music. I will also assume that being jailed is what gave Jennings such an appreciation for life, and that would be where the twist to his name came from. No time was to be wasted, as Jennings began recording upon his second day of freedom.
01, Change the Game (Intro) (1.33), 1*
02, Keep On Dreaming (3.40), 2*
Ironically I have very recently reviewed music by Katie Melua, who is also a soulful song however from a more jazz perespective than R&B. Therefore, Lyfe Jennings should be the Melua for the younger audiance, and an artist I should immediately fall in love with. Having never heard any of Lyfe's music before this date, the 'gangsta' introduction was a bit strange and seemed to not exactly have anything really to do with the style of music you are going to get for fourteen further tracks. 'Keep On Dreaming' is truly what to expect from the rest of the album, however you will be forgiven for being disappointed as it just sounds like a poor ballad version of what a grown up Chris Brown or Bow Wow may sound like. And by grown-up I mean forty.
"Look outside your window, tell me what you see."
03, Warriors (3.10), 1*
04, Never Never Land (3.58), 3*
05, Brand New ft. T.I. (3.10), 3*
"It feels like somethings moving inside of me, my heart is doing backflips in spite of me."
Everything T.I. lends himself to I seem to end up enjoying, and whilst this is such a lower league compared to T.I.'s appearances with stars the size of Justin Timberlake, it's still an enjoyable moment if you are a Lyfe Jennings fan. T.I. being a rapper who has also had his recent run-ins with the law combined with this souful artist make them a fairly accurate match. 'Never Never Land' is Lyfe's most recent single release from the album that has charted at #33, and at this point you feel that things may finally be on the up after the initial disappointment.
06, It's Real (3.10), 1*
07, Cops Up (3.33), 2*
'Cops Up' is the only other track to have been released as a single thus far off the album, and is an example of what is wrong with Jennings as an artist. The track doesn't really make much sense, and asks for people to call 911 to save him from.. something. On the other hand we should be calling the police to save ourselves from tracks such as 'I'm Real' that sound like a case of production gone wrong. Timbaland shall be rolling in his grave.
08, You Think You've Got It Bad ft. Wyclef Jean (4.18), 2*
09, Wild, Wild, Wild (3.23), 2*
10, Midnight Train (3.18), 1*
11, Hmmm (3.41), 3*
Wyclef Jean is a relatively large featured artists to have on the album, although considering he hasn't done anything that much successful on his own lately it isn't that surprising to see him working on a smaller artists album. Unfortunately this appearance just further drives the track into the ground. 'Wild' is the culmination of nine tracks that have already been incredibly medicore on lyrics, with the odd spark of interest that seems to have been copied off someone else, and 'Wild' is a prime example of this as the beat sounds ripped straight from the 90's. 'Hmmm' adds some welcome relief just as the concept of the song is slightly different.
"Then my phone rings, should I pick it up and go back to reality?"
12, Old School ft. Snoop Dogg (4.13), 2*
13, Us (Interlude) (1.17), 1*
14, Will I Ever (4.51), 4*
15, Baby I'm a Star (4.19), 2*
Snoop Dogg completes the list of three featured artists, and you either love him or hate him.. and you can just imagine that his work with Lyfe Jennings isn't going to be the performance that turns you. 'Us' is a prime example of how not to do interludes, and is worse than the introduction track, if that is possible. 'Will I Ever' is the first time on the album you hear Jennings playing the guitar, and although it is a rocky beat to an R&B soul track it actually ends up being the highlight of the entire album. I guess it shows that although Jennings is a talented muscian being able to play guitar, bass and piano those talents don't automatically translate to being the next American Idol. 'Baby I'm a Star' is not the way to end the album in style, and after this bland piece of work Jennings should be thinking of another change to his lyfe before working on a fourth album.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Change the Game (Intro) - Walter Burch, Lyfe Jennings
2 Keep on Dreaming
4 Never Never Land
5 Brand New - Lyfe Jennings, T.I.
6 It's Real
7 Cops Up
8 You Think You've Got It Bad - Wyclef Jean, Lyfe Jennings
9 Wild, Wild, Wild
10 Midnight Train
12 Old School - Lyfe Jennings, Snoop Dogg
13 Us (Interlude)
14 Will I Ever
15 Baby I'm a Star [*]