Lyfe Jennings Interview
|Label:||Red Music / Sony|
|Next Project:||Change (March '08)|
|Twitter:||Lyfe Jennings on Twitter|
|Website:||Lyfe Jennings's Website|
Adapt or die. We can either change to overcome life’s obstacles or get left behind. Lyfe Jennings has learned that lesson only too well; the in-demand singer recently added the title of CEO to his already impressive resume. Jennings’ newfound versatility puts him in perfect position to lay down some serious soul with the release of his upcoming album Change, a gritty and unflinching look at the pain and joy of life.
From tales of heartbreak to declarations of love, Lyfe isn’t afraid to write songs about subjects other artists won’t touch, and have a damn good time in the process.
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth’s DJ “Z”, Lyfe steps inside the booth to talk about how his kids have taught him to be a better musician, the possibilities of a future rap career, and why you should never tell him you know Michael Jackson.
Listen to the Interview
Lyfe Jennings Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on ya’ll? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a singer whose heart was recently stolen. No worries, though – I called the cops, and it’s been safely returned. Please welcome Lyfe Jennings. How are you?
Lyfe: Yo, I’m good. What’s up, Z?
DJ Booth: Hey, not too much. You have a new album on the horizon, congratulations.
Lyfe: Thank you.
DJ Booth: If you were working at a switchboard for 911 and a man called up saying, “My heart’s been stolen and I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” how would you respond?
Lyfe: [laughter] I would tell him, “Okay, we’re gonna send the paramedics out, and our paramedics will be strippers.”
DJ Booth: That might solve the problem.
Lyfe: Word up, that’ll help him.
DJ Booth: The new album is entitled “Change.” What is the single biggest positive change you’ve made in your life?
Lyfe: Single biggest positive change? Just took responsibility for my own life. A lot of times we sit around waitin’ on people and we say we’re gonna wait till tomorrow, we gonna wait till the money gets better or till we have more time. But in reality, what we wanna do, we do. So that’s probably the biggest change I’ve made.
DJ Booth: There’s a popular and very cliché phrase that states, “Everything happens for a reason.” If you could actually go back in time, though, and change something that you contemplated, but never did anything about, what would you alter?
Lyfe: I don’t know; that’s a tricky question, because I’m at a point in my life where I feel like I’m happy. I’m successful right now, and if I changed one thing in the past it might alter today.
DJ Booth: That’s fair. Unlike your first two albums, “Change” features a wide variety of featured guest and producers. What, or possibly who, made you mix it up and bring on collaborators such as Wyclef and Snoop Dogg, or producers, The Underdogs?
Lyfe: I’m definitely not a producer, that’s not my passion. I think that people always do better with things that are their passion. I had a chance to sit out with Wyclef and do some stuff with him, and music is those guys’ passion, and I saw how good they were at it, and I really wanted to be able to just focus in on my passion which is the writing and the singing, and let another guy – who, that’s his lifelong dream, to be a producer – go ahead and do what he does.
DJ Booth: Another song on the project, “She’s The Ish,” is said to be an ode to confident women. Lyfe, obviously confidence is a major factor when looking for someone special, so if confidence tips the scale in a positive direction, what is one negative attribute or characteristic that tips that same scale in the opposite direction for you?
Lyfe: I got a lot of turnoffs, but one of them in particular is name-dropping. You meet a lot of people talkin’ about their exploits. But it’s almost like when you’re name-droppin’ artists like Michael Jackson, always this person or that person, it’s almost like you’re tryin’ to prove to me that you are somebody. But in reality, when I first met you, you were gonna be treated with the same respect and courtesy that I would treat Michael Jackson, or whoever else that you named.
DJ Booth: Definitely. There are a few songs on the new album where you breach a variety of touchy subject, such as the AIDS epidemic. Very few artists, over the current decade at least, have brought up the topic of AIDS. The only one that comes to mind is T-Pain. Why is it this way, and how can it change?
Lyfe: I think it’s political. When you align yourself with political issues, some shows don’t want you to come on because they’re lighter shows. It’s already just a few shows, but you shrink that number drastically when you are a certain kind of person. How we can change that is somebody is gonna have to have some success with doin’ it, and then other people will see that you can be successful doin’ something like that and still be accepted on these shows.
DJ Booth: In addition to being an artist, you have a second full-time job, and that’s fatherhood. So, which is more difficult, Lyfe: music, or parenting?
Lyfe: I think parenting is more difficult. With music, you can make mistakes and people’ll forgive you. When you make some mistakes as a father, those things can alter your children’s lives forever. So I’m much more careful in what I say around my kids, than what I say on a record. I can cuss on a record, or say something that I feel at the time and get some anger out, but I gotta really be mature and control myself when I’m around my kids.
DJ Booth: What do you think you’ve learned from your kid, that’s helped you musically evolve?
Lyfe: Simplicity. When you talk to your kids, you’re tryin’ to get to the point, but you’re tryin’ to get there in a way that’s gonna be clear for them. And I try to transport that to my music, because there’s a lot of children – not in age, but emotionally, maybe physically, socially, and you to make sure that they get the message, too.
DJ Booth: Okay. Same question, let’s flip it around – what throughout your music career do you think has helped you become a better parent?
Lyfe: Well, when you write a song, you have time to go over it and over it, until you get it right. And since I write about life issues, while I’m goin’ over and over I got a chance to develop it, and I get a chance to think about it. When I can give that to my children, it’s not something that I’m just sayin’ randomly at the time, it’s something I’ve actually explored.
DJ Booth: Lyfe, if either of your boys came to you and told you that they wanted to become a musician, knowing how difficult it is to break into the recording industry, would you support their wishes, or suggest other, more stable potential careers?
Lyfe: I want them to do whatever they love doing. If they wanna sweep streets, and that’s their passion, then I’m gonna be behind them one hundred percent.
DJ Booth: That’s a sign of a very good father. First I heard you rhyme over your current single, “Cops Up,” and I thought, “Hm, maybe he wanted to just get creative.” Then I read that you’re contemplating a rap project. This is true, correct?
Lyfe: Yeah, definitely a rap project. I wanna do something different, though. I don’t know if I would just simply rap. Maybe I would take a rapper who’s not known for singing and have him sing and me rap, vice versa.
DJ Booth: Fellow singer Tyrese attempted it with his alter ego, Black-Ty, but he wasn’t able to go very far because people already knew him for being a singer and didn’t take him seriously. Do you think that artists who start off in one genre, and then float to another, can be taken seriously?
Lyfe: I think in the beginning, people know you for what you’re known for. It’s just like, we see Batman as a good guy, but then if Batman was in a gangster film, and he robbin’ banks, it would take us a while. But, after about three films, we start to associate Batman with that thug character that he was tryin’ to be at that time.
DJ Booth: I’ll make you a deal: I’ll A&R your entire project if you spit sixteen bars for me right now!
Lyfe: [laughter] Wow… how about I spit sixteen bars on the phone, and I A&R your next project?
DJ Booth: We can do it either way, but I’d love to hear it.
Lyfe: Yo, you catch me in the Lex truck with them things on it/ platinum pinky ring big enough to watch the game on it/ license plate personalized, my name on it/ Only drivin’ in the summer, ain’t never had rain on it/ I’m probably the only R&B dude you know/who got to break a Greg Brady for 22/ step on ‘em, double down, half raw half glue/ no return policy, it is what it is.
DJ Booth: There we go – the multi-talented, multifaceted Lyfe Jennings on the phone with me inside the DJ Booth. Lyfe, give everybody a website or a Myspace page so they can find out more about the brand new album, “Change,” which is coming this March.
Lyfe: 2lyfe.com, or you can go to myspace.com/lyfejennings, or you can go to my label page, which is jesusswings.com, we all over the place. Or you can come to my house; if you really really just have to talk to me, you can drop by!
DJ Booth: Sounds good. I wish you nothing but the best of luck and I thank you for takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth.
Lyfe: All right. Thank you, Z.