Lyfe Jennings: Next Chapter

By Todd Davis  |  04/30/2008

Lyfe JenningsChester Jennings, or as he is professionally known Lyfe, is a Toledo, Ohio based multi-talented singer who is a quite gifted guitar, bass and piano player. Although music has been in his blood since birth, unfortunately, at the age of 14 tragedy struck. Shockingly, Lyfe was convicted and sentenced to prison for the crime of arson. After completing a lengthy decade long stay, the, then still young aspiring musician, was eventually released and finally able to share his God given talent with the rest of the world.

His platinum selling debut, Lyfe 268-192, spawned the smash hit single, "Must Be Nice," and helped set the stage for what would later become his gold selling sophomore follow-up, The Phoenix. recently spoke to Mr. Jennings on the eve of the release of his stellar third outing, Lyfe Change. Explain the significance behind the title of your new album?

Lyfe Jennings: It just... really Lyfe Change is just about implementing a change in the world, man. Definitely my records, hopefully, have been implementing that change, and that name is just, hopefully, just further implications of it. How does it actually measure up to your first two solo projects?

Lyfe: I think that my first two efforts were very, very personal. I think this third one is definitely, you know, you got classic Lyfe on there, but I think you have me having some fun times. One of the things that I'm working on as an artist is using less words to say more, so you gonna be able to see some of that -- my attempts on the album. I think we did a good job of it. I know you've always handled the majority of the production on your own releases, but this time around you brought in a few outside sources...

Lyfe: These producers really put they names on stuff, but like my first two albums, I did pretty much all the production on the album. This album, I have some production from Killer Rich Keller, The Underdogs, and Wyclef did some stuff. Wyclef actually did two songs, and I did the rest of 'em. Any special features on Lyfe Change?

Lyfe: Yeah, I got a... Let me see, I got a track on there with Wyclef. It's called "You Think You Got It Bad," which is crazy. I got a track on there with Snoop Dogg called "Old School," that's crazy. T.I. is on the album. We gonna do a couple of remixes off the album, too, man. "Never Never Land" is killing the charts right now, which is my first single off the album, so, you know... "Cops Up" was put out pretty much as a teaser, and did quite well for you. But, like you say, your "official" first single, "Never Never Land," is really blowing up. Did you expect such a great response?

Lyfe: Yes, I was surprised that it moved up as quickly as it did, but with any record from Lyfe Jennings it's gonna take awhile to come up anyway because it's gonna have to saturate, man. For some reason, that's just how it goes. But, my records stick, you know? They tend to hang around for a long time. You seem to have incorporated quite a bit of hip-hop influence on the record. Was this actually a conscious decision you made going into the new CD?

Lyfe: Nah, not really. I had did songs before I ever put the rappers on it, and then the song just screamed for that particular rapper. So, then I gave 'em a call. As a songwriter, where does your pen game come from?

Lyfe: Just life, everyday life, and, of course, my life. And also, you know, I might think of some subject matter that nobody wants to talk about it, and talk about it in a way that it doesn't sound preachy, but it is informative. What exactly has it been that has continued to keep you relevant when it comes to your music?

Lyfe: That I'm a regular dude. Like, it's not really no Hollywood stuff with me. When I go places, a lot of times, I be by myself, you know? I'm going in the 'hood. Like, a lot of times people don't want to go in the ghettos or the streets where they're from 'cause they act like they scared of them folks now that they done had some success. And, that's just... I think that's crazy. I think it's an insult to the people that buy your records when you can't come where they are because you think it's too dangerous to come. If it's not too dangerous for your music to be down there, then it's not too dangerous for you to be down there. Outside of this successful recording career, is there anything else that you are planning to branch out and do?

Lyfe: I definitely want to do... like, I got a children's book series that's coming out later on this year. I got a furniture line that I'm getting together as we speak, [that'll] probably be out like the top of next year. That's pretty much it. And, my kids is my aspirations. What is probably the biggest misconception about Lyfe Jennings?

Lyfe: That I'm not always serious. Like, we play, we have fun, and also that I'm just a regular dude like you. You gonna see me at the bus stop. If you in New York, it's like, you might see me at the park. You might see me... a lot of people, they get this thought in they head that artists are untouchable, and a lot of them are, but I'm just not one of 'em. Well one point that you continue to re-iterate is just how really normal you actually are. But, that could also lead to dangerous situations as well, don't you think? Not to bring up something so sad and shocking, but the fact of the matter is that your friend and protégé, Yolanda "LaLa" Brown, who you did the "S.E.X." duet with, was tragically gunned down in the studio, mind you, last October...

Lyfe: I mean, it could, but you would be surprised just how much love it is in the street. Like anywhere I go, if it's some nonsense about to pop off. Dudes will come and alert me to it 'cause they done got love. And, I don't think it has anything so much to do with me, as it does with the music. Like the music just touches 'em in a way, and they feel like they're a part of it. So, if something was to happen to me, it would almost seem like a piece of their psyche would be affected as well. So, I don't really worry about that, you know? Plus, I ain't really nobody like that. You can die walking across the street. The case itself is still unsolved, am I right? Do you know if there have been any additional new, and/or recent, developments?

Lyfe: No recent developments as far as solving the case. I mean, I would hope that they're still looking. But you just tell all these young girls out here, you just gotta be careful of the company that you keep because a situation can happen to one of the guys you're with. It doesn't have anything to do with you, and you can be a victim of that situation. Is R&B music still alive and well?

Lyfe: Uh... Yeah, I am happy with it, man. I mean, I'm not thrilled with it, but I think it's a lot of new young guys that's coming out that's giving the game some versatility. I just think that it's not necessarily enough informative music out here. I feel like I'm kinda carrying that torch by myself. And, when I talk about informative, I don't mean positive 'cause we still got Christian music out here, we still got Gospel music. [I'm referring to] somebody on the mainstream front that's still trying to give these kids something. We just need a little more of that. But other than that, guys like Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, J. Holiday's new... You got the old school cats, like... Not old school. I mean old school in terms of albums -- Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, you know, cats like that. What has been your career highlight?

Lyfe: It's kinda like a happy note and a sad one at the same time. But, I was in Charlotte, North Carolina, and during one of my shows this guy, their favorite song was "Must Be Nice," so he proposed to his girl, and he was like that song was what made him decide to propose to her. And the next day after he proposed, he died. But, when I saw her later on, she told me that she was just happy that the song existed because she would've never had the opportunity to know the depth and sincerity of his love for her so, you know. Projecting ahead, where do you see yourself?

Lyfe: I'll probably own... well, not probably, I know I will own the company, set my sons up to do whatever it is that they want to do, family, friends, a lot of memories, hopefully no major regrets, and hopefully still doing this music thing. Lyfe Change is out?

Lyfe: The album is in stores. Although, my children's book series is coming out, The Adventures of Lyfe. It's a three book series. Furniture line will probably come at the top of the year. But, right now all our focus is on this album right here.