Lyfe Jennings Biography
Singer/songwriter Lyfe, a record-breaking five-time winner on "Showtime At the Apollo," knows life's highs and lows from direct experience. Graced with a poet's heart and a hustler's instincts, Lyfe has navigated his way through darkness and emerged with Lyfe 268-192, his starkly soulful debut from Sony Urban Music/Columbia Records.
Written, produced, sung and lived by Lyfe Jennings, Lyfe 268-192 (referring to his former prison number) is an R&B album that doesn't derive its inspiration from glossy magazines or strip clubs. Instead, it’s a melodic cycle of raw urban turbulence and ultimate redemption, an achingly honest set of narratives that strike close to the bone and come straight from the heart of soul. The album signals the arrival of a fresh unvarnished talent, a startling new voice on the musical landscape and is a classic, making a huge impact on the hearts and minds of fans worldwide.
Without prefabricated hype, glossy ad campaigns or sexed up videos, Lyfe’s message has become a phenomenon. He offers, “You can talk about something real and relevant and still get some record spins.” Bolstered by tremendous word of mouth, a rep as a compelling live performer and two singles, "Must Be Nice," a song with a simple moral, be thankful for what you have, and according to Lyfe, is about when "you've got somebody good and you just hold on to them. “ His second single “Hypothetically” Featuring Fantasia is a situational drama set to beautiful acoustic sounds. Lyfe’s debut is platinum and has insistently made its presence felt at urban radio.
It’s clear that Lyfe Jennings’ mission and music are galvanizing audiences, and the organic manner in which success has occurred suits the 20 something songwriter. “I feel really good about everything that’s happened with the album because it represents security in terms of my career. Because when things pop off really quick a lot of times you can attribute that success to radio or a lot of ads in magazines. But when you naturally grow and make that connection from being out on the road, then you’ve made real relationships and real fans who will stick by you”.
Lyfe has cemented that relationship with his live performances; ones that possess you with the spirit to share the lived-in truths learned first-hand from his relationships, betrayal and the streets. Over the past 18 months Lyfe has toured with some of the heaviest hitters in R&B including label mate John Legend, Angie Stone, Floetry and Anthony Hamilton. It was while out on the road, spreading his message that Lyfe began to realize that his debut was becoming the little album that could.” I realized my record was blowing up as I saw the rooms getting bigger, sales started to grow and are still growing after nearly two years. “Lyfe reflects. It’s not hard to figure out why when Lyfe 268-192 takes on a variety of unlikely subjects. “Greedy” about child support from a man’s perspective, dating a woman with kids “She Got Kids” and ultimately the stirring "Cry," which, according to Lyfe, is "a lot about me." It is also a song he sang to win "Showtime at the Apollo." Co-produced by Rhemario "Rio" Webber," "Cry" is about emotional truth. "They say men don't cry but this song is to tell them that I've been through the same things ya'll been through and believe me, sometimes you need a release," Lyfe confesses.
Born in Toledo Ohio, Lyfe grew up in a working class family, the middle of five kids. He first began singing in church and, by the time he was a teen, he'd joined 'The Dotsons,' a small family vocal act consisting of his older brother and two cousins. With a sound similar to New Edition's, the Dotsons won local talent shows and recorded a demo, which Lyfe laughs, "went nowhere." Yet despite the lack of success, Lyfe was getting offers from local producers to go solo. Those dreams came to an abrupt halt when, Lyfe, who'd fallen in with bad company, was sentenced to a jail sentence that resulted in him serving 10 years, 8 months and 13 days hard time. It was during his darkest times that Lyfe discovered that music was more than a hobby. It would be his salvation.
Lyfe learned how to play guitar, wrote songs and set up music programs for other inmates. The prison administration was supportive, hooking Lyfe up with equipment and video to tape his "gigs." As Lyfe's sentence was drawing to a close, he asked the authorities if they could compile a reel of his shows so that he could submit it to "Showtime In Harlem" formerly "Showtime At the Apollo." Making an exception to strict policy, the warden agreed and soon Lyfe's performances reached executives on the show. As fate would have it, two days before Lyfe was to go home, he heard back from Apollo powers-that-be, who told him they were willing to overlook the formal audition process and booked him for the show.
The day after his release Lyfe headed to the studio and recorded a demo. Weeks later he piled into a rental car with his older brother, his manager, two friends and a box of demos then drove to New York City during a snowstorm, where his destiny awaited him. "I'm not the kind of guy who is excitable," he says, "but here I was, starting out doing what I wanted to do straight outta the gate.” In January 2003 Lyfe was on-stage at the legendary Apollo. Despite his wealth of talent, Lyfe admits to being a bit 'shook' by the experience and humbled performing "in a place where a lot of greatness started off."
Lyfe joined that roster of greats when he performed "Cry" and was greeted by a standing ovation. He won the competition, received another standing ovation, and repeated that pattern a total of five times culminating with his last win in February 2004. Not surprisingly, the industry started to pay attention and soon Lyfe was performing at showcases and fielding various offers. The commute from Toledo became wearing so Lyfe relocated to New York, signed with Columbia Records after a meeting with President, Don Einer where he sang “She Got Kids” with, Nicole, his acoustic guitar. Lyfe immediately began work on Lyfe 268-192. While recording he continued to gig and tour, ratcheting up the anticipation even higher for what he was about to present.
Now February 2006, firmly on the way to the top recently finishing his own nationwide headlining tour, is featured on L.L. Cool J’s next single “Freeze”, nominated for a Soul Train Award and currently recording his sophomore album, Lyfe is in a position to both soak it all in as well as reflect upon his astounding achievement. “I’m happy with the way my career is going, but at the same time I haven’t really focused on the sales and attention as much as I have my craft. It’s sort of like when you’re painting a picture and somebody asks how it looks. You really can’t judge because you’re in the middle of creating it. After you’re done you can step back and examine it. Right now? I’m still painting a picture.”