We’ve been here before. Jay-Z swore that the Black Album was his swan song; he’s now dropped three post-“retirement” albums with more on the way. Lupe Fiasco insisted that he’d drop his third album, LupEND, and then walk away from the game; LupEND is now a distant memory. The-Dream told reporters that Love King would be his final solo work…he’s now in the studio working on his next album Love Affair. Like athletes, the odds of an artist following through on a retirement announcement are about as good as Lindsay Lohan following through on her …
DJBooth Album Review
We don’t - other than that he’s given his word. But, on the chance that I Still Believe proves to truly be the last album we ever hear from the perpetually raspy-voiced singer, we simply can’t let the chance to pay tribute to the Jennings’ career pass us by. From his debut Lyfe 268-192 until now, Lyfe has lived up to his first name, delivering music that is nothing if not real, a style that also made him one of hip-hop’s favorite hook men (or at least the more gritty side of hip-hop). It’s fitting then that I Still Believe is not only perhaps his most uncompromising work to date, but also one of his best.
It‘s his voice, a well worn grovel that also somehow possess the capacity for beauty, that truly sets Lyfe apart, but that voice has also ironically shifted attention from his underrated lyrical abilities, abilities most evident on I Still Believe’s lead single Statistics. It’s no easy task to deliver on the concept that Statistics proposes without making the song entirely about the concept, but he strikes a delicate balance here, offering both numerical breakdowns (“25% of all men are unstable, 25% of all men can’t be faithful”) and more general rules (“If he don’t respect ya girl he gon’ forget ya”). That’s right, Lyfe’s like Dr. Phil; a black, attractive Dr. Phil who makes hit singles and actually offers good advice. Ok, so he’s not like Dr. Phil at all, but he does have higher aspirations for his music than simple enjoyment. It Could Have Been Worse is a gospel-soaked ballad about putting life’s inevitable struggles in perspective, If I Knew Then, What I Know Now details the high price of gaining wisdom and fittingly Learn From This finds him pouring his heart out so we don’t make the same mistakes he has. With a voice like that we know Lyfe’s been through it all, so when he tells us to follow him on I Still Believe, we follow.
Of course no real r&b album is complete without songs about women, or more precisely, being in love and lust with women, and I Still Believe has plenty to offer on that front as well. Spotlight lays out a smooth, strip club friendly beat for Lyfe’s boot knocking proclivities, complete with a hilarious monologue (that is without a doubt the first Kevorkian reference in r&b history). It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it doesn’t need to be, it just needs to get the ladies winding their hips on the dance floor. Mission accomplished. Unfortunately under the criteria I’ve laid out repeatedly in these reviews I have to deduct points for I Still Believe’s lack of a true babymaker, Spotlight’s really as close as we get, but that doesn’t mean the album lacks in the desire department. Whatever She Wants is a hypnotic ballad about falling head over heels in love, and of course the simply titled Love is Lyfe’s musical recipe for keeping that special lady in your life. So if you’re looking to lock the bedroom door and get down I Still Believe won’t be your first choice, but for the other 99% of your relationship needs, Lyfe’s got you covered.
Only time will tell if I Still Believe becomes a classic, for the time being it’s hard to ask for more. And while hardcore fans may always continue to believe that Lyfe will return someday, the more reasonable amongst us have to assume that we do indeed have Jennings’ opus coursing through our headphones. So wherever life and music may take you from here, best of luck Lyfe Jennings. I’d say your music will be missed, but you’ve already given us enough to listen to for a lifetime.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 09/2/10
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Mass Appeal Ent.
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Ghetto Mindstate (Can't Get Away) ft. Lyfe Jennings" (2006)
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