Words by Edward T. Bowser, SoulInStereo.com
Every culture needs a storyteller, a scribe to chronicle history and to retell it to younger generations.
R&B has Lyfe Jennings as its ghetto griot.
Give him credit: While most of his peers are dub-stepping their way onto radio playlists like lemmings in the pursuit of notoriety, Lyfe continues to do what he’s always done – using his music to tell the lessons of love. Good or bad, Lyfe gives it to you straight, like any good teacher would. Lyfe’s fifth album, Lucid, continues his tradition of emotional education through song.
First single “Boomerang” is a cautionary tale of karma for men who put lust before love: “Now I’m sitting here tryin to be strong but I’m hurting/And the sad part of it all is I deserve this/This was meant to teach me a lesson/It’s working perfectly.” As always, Lyfe is totally transparent. He’ll gladly play the martyr for dysfunctional relationships.
Lyfe teaches listeners the art of loving a woman on “College,” learning her favorite singers and even noticing how she likes her sandwiches cut. “Women change every day, so you have to learn her every day, ” he says. Pay attention, fellas.
But ladies, don’t get too comfortable. Lucid has plenty of tough talk for you too. “Famous” tells the tale of a woman obsessed with the glamorous life. As Lyfe blatantly states in his closing rap, if she wants the spotlight, there are plenty of men out there willing to give her the wrong kind of attention.
And the current single “I Wish” is a pretty hilarious take on breakups. Most breakups end with the partners wishing each other the best. Lyfe’s response? “I wish nothing but bad luck/hope you get hit by a truck …. You’ll never hurt me again.” Yeah, it’s goofy but it’s reality.
Honestly, at time the album gets too cute for it’s own good. “ABC” – a stroll down lover’s lane using the alphabet – comes off a bit too juvenile. “Winner” likewise is well-meaning but a bit heavy-handed. Also, at just 10 tracks, the album ends almost too abruptly. I’m all for tight, concise bodies of work but this set really needed a couple of signature tracks to push it to the next level. Something like “Must Be Nice” or “Never Never Land” – or even a sleeper album cut like “Old School” – would have fit perfectly.
You won’t find any raucous, flashy production or guest spots from flavor-of-the-month rappers on Lucid. The mood is easy and subdued, never overwhelming – giving Lyfe breathing room to take the pulpit and address his congregation.
Whether he’s encouraging listeners to take control of their own destinies (“I Am”) or admitting that personal “weakness” is actually a sign of growth (“When It’s Good”) Lucid finds Lyfe at this best, putting substance over style and telling listeners what they need to hear, whether they like it or not.
Sit at the griot’s feet for awhile. You’re guaranteed to learn something.
Best tracks: “Boomerang,” “I Am,” “Famous”
4 stars out of 5