Lyfe Jennings – I Still Believe [Review]

In 2004, Lyfe Jennings burst onto the scene as a man with a raspy voice, a conscious mind, and a past that was flanked with struggle and lessons learned the hard way. It’s now 2010 and Lyfe is ready to move on and prevent the same life he lived from being the soundtrack to his children’s life. It’s no secret that this is his last album by his own admission, so what does he leave us with?

1. Statistics
Produced by T-Minus
Songs like this are why I consider Lyfe Jennings the singing version of LL Cool J. This song is aimed squarely at women and the struggle to find a man, a sentiment echoed by CNN on their news story. Anyway, I really like the creativity of the song and the message, even if the statistics quoted are flat out crazy. I adore women and hearing a song like this really makes me hope that all women that want a man can find one that will treat them like they want to be treated, then better. While some guys will say “he’s snitchin’ or hatin’” while directing ladies to avoid being the booty call, be celibate, don’t date a cheater, etc. I say he’s just passing out good advice, terrible statistics aside. Steve Harvey anyone?

2. Love
Produced by T-Minus
Essentially, this is the grown man’s version of Boyfriend #2. Where that song was about being the side man, this song is about I’m not after your girl, but you better do right by her because if she’s ready to leave, I’m ready to pick up where you left off. Either way, saying one or the other to the man in the relationship will get you beat down quicker than an Clifford Etienne vs. Mike Tyson bout. The premise is more adult though, take care of what you love, who you love, if you want to keep it. As long as you take care of home and done all you can, you’ve held up your end of the bargain. I won’t comment on the “work like a Mexican” line in the song….

3. It Coulda Been Worse
Produced by T-Minus
No smoke and mirrors title here, this song is basically a gospel song…or something very close. Be thankful for not having real reason not to be is the message on this song. The production on this one sounds very mechanical (read beat machine or something similar) but it does come together pretty well. I think the melody and the chorus really carry this song well and help everything play together nicely. Even when things are going rough, remember, it coulda been worse.

4. Spotlight
Produced by T-Minus
I don’t think that anyone is a robot, we all have emotions and contradictions. So I’m not going to fault Lyfe for making a babymaking song. I don’t care for the song itself but I can’t say that it’s a bad song, it’s just not a song that I care for. I think the track is actually pretty good. The faint use of strings in the background add to the song as it seems to build as it goes on. I do have to say that there is a rap here and it’s some of the worse rapping I’ve heard on a song since Silkk the Shocker.

“She say she into spoonin / I say I’m into forkin’ / I wanna kill that ass / call me Love Kevorkian / her bodies actin’ up / I want to make a movie / straight to DVD / to nasty for TV / she says I need a drink / I bought the whole club / then fired everybody / and now she’s fired up / she say she wanna do it underneath the spotlight / I said is that right? right”

5. Busy
Produced by Lyfe Jennings
I really like this stripped down track. Lyfe doesn’t usually hit us over the head with overly musical production, but the simple keys and bass on this track coupled with the melody on the bridge really give this a nice feel. I could even see this being rapped over either as part of the song, or as a mixtape beat. The song is about those one-sided relationships when one person seems more interested in being a couple than the other does. There is the thrill of the chase, and then there is ridiculous, this is about the latter. I really like this song, never mind the yodeling chorus.

6. Whatever She Wants
Produced by Lyfe Jennings
This track has a very traditional R&B sound to it. There are nice chords, snap, and melody on this one and it’s a very appropriate canvas for the song. The spirit of this song is about carelessly spoiling your girl. Don’t get it twisted though, this isn’t a “Throw it in the Bag” themed song, it’s about spoiling her because you love her and want to shower her with whatever she wants. I think most people can attest to the feeling you get when you drive by your baby’s favorite store, see their favorite thing and you scoop it up, or you tell her to sit back down, that you’ll get her a glass of something to drink just because. I think this one is my favorite song on the album.

7. Mama
Featuring Anthony Hamilton; Produced by T-Minus
Yes, the Kings of Raspy Soul (not a diss) have united on a track, and thank God they did. We know Lyfe has his strongest roots in singing soulful songs entrenched in the struggles of the steet life and trying to make it in a world that is out of touch with that struggle. It may be me, but this song has a theatrical feel to it. I could see this being done in one of those Tyler Perry style plays (not a diss). I do have to say that this song seems to crescendo early and then end abruptly. It’s an otherwise great song.

8. Hero
Produced by Lyfe Jennings
“Superman can’t cook chicken like this, and Wonder Woman can’t kiss….” you see where he’s going with this. This song basically mentions a Comic Hero’s name, then the reason why you’re personal hero is better than them. Sometimes, good ideas only sound that way on paper. The inclusion of the names makes this song sound really corny to me. I think eluding to the powers or feats of them and then stating why you’re personal hero is better would have been more effective and creative. Musically, this song is pretty basic as well.

9. I Still Believe
Produced by Lyfe Jennings
I believe I can fly…nope, sorry. I don’t know why this song immediately reminded me of that with the first drummer-boy hit. I notice on this track, and I don’t know if it’s like this on his other albums, but Lyfe has a habit of linking a myriad of things that are typically unrelated, with one word or phrase. For example, this song, everything he says starts “I Still Believe….” and then you can insert whatever you want here. Is that good or bad or even worth mentioning? I still haven’t decided, but it does stand out on this album though. The music and chorus of this song really sound generic and causes the song to labor on to another abrupt ending. This isn’t one of the shining moments of the album, even though the message of the song is positive and somewhat inspiring.

10. Learn From This
Produced by T-Minus
The melodic keynote that is playing sounds like the melody of Nicki Minaj’s latest single and the rest of the accompaniment gives this song a nice bounce and groove. However, the subject matter of this song isn’t one that many of us would be bopping and dancing too. A broken relationship, and empty home, child support, and pain…not exactly a dancing occasion. Maybe lyrically, the song is sad enough that the sentiments don’t need to be echoed musically? I’m not really sure about the pairing of the uptempo track and the painful lyrics, but it’s there.

11. Done Crying
Produced by Lyfe Jennings
Fellas, are you looking for a sad love song? I present to you, “Done Crying”. I imagine that most of us that have been in relationships have been dumped a’la when a woman’s fed up. This song laments about when the woman is…well, done crying. The track is a melody and a snap, it’s really stripped down but Lyfe tends to keep this kind of production around him. I do have to give the people eyebrow to the curious inclusion of the voice of some woman narrating (for 2 sentences 2x) on the track. It came on like she was talking in my ear and it kind of creeped me out. I don’t know that her voice was matched to the track at all and if that was intentional or not, but I don’t like that part specifically. It sounds like an afterthought. This song also seems to end in an odd spot.

12. If I Knew Then, What I Know Now
Produced by Lyfe Jennings
On this song heartfelt lyrics and pretty good writing are stifled by a terrible track and the unwarranted attempt at rapping again. This song would be better acapella…and without the rapping. I really don’t have anything else I can say about this one…SKIP.

13. If Tomorrow Never Comes (bonus track)
Produced by Lyfe Jennings
This is a fantastic end to the album. Lyfe waits until unlucky 13 to pour his heart out completely and leaves just the keys to back him. The best way to describe this song is by the title alone. This song is Lyfe’s apology for the pain, the mistakes, and the things he’s put “her” through. This is the most raw song on the album and thus, probably the best.

Bottom Line:
Like so many albums that are being made, this album will really sit right at home for folks that like Lyfe’s music. He doesn’t vary from the script much lyrically or musically on this album. As a body of work, music could really combine all of his albums as one long album. The most important link in all of the albums is that Lyfe does a great job of making soulful music that always makes you feel something, no matter what that feeling is. In a time when a lot of music is packaged to be surface and lack any depth at all, Mr. Jennings continues to find ways to convey his life to us, and his passion for the stories he tells is undeniable. This album definitely is in that same vein. It does, however, tend to get in it’s own way. The album is full of moments that have something that sidetracks an otherwise really good song. From the attempts at rapping, abrupt endings, sometimes cheesy lyrics, and odd vocal choices, the detractors on this album are frustrating. Like I said, for those of you that are die hard Lyfe fans, this will be a welcome album to the catalog. I think one thing fans and those unfamiliar with Lyfe can agree on, is that we hope he returns to the scene to bring us some more soulful music.

Soulections: “Love”, “It Coulda Been Worse”, “Busy”, “Whatever She Wants”, “Mama”, If Tomorrow Never Comes”

Listen: “Mama” – Lyfe Jennings ft. Anthony Hamilton

[audio:http://soulections.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/07-lyfe_jennings-mama.mp3|titles=07-lyfe_jennings-mama]

7 Comments

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  4. JMarguerite says:

    My mom is a HUGE Lyfe Jennings fan. She has EVERY album and listens to him in heavy rotation. This album, and his last album “Lyfe Change” were a complete turnaround from his first 2 albums. I like this album because it showed his growth. It sucks he went to jail, but he put out a really good album. I didn’t agree with the rating, I thought it should be higher. “Busy” is my FAVORITE song off of the album. All in all, he put out a really good album, and I really hope this isn’t his last…

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