A prison stint gave Chester "Lyfe" Jennings time to write songs about the kind of everyday complexities that are far from the prevalent "bling-bling" hip-hop lifestyle. Jennings keeps the idea of past mistakes right up front by recycling his assigned prison number for the album title LYFE 268-192. The Toledo, Ohio, native uses spoken-word interludes in between hip-hop/soul songs that touch on child-support issues ("Greedy"), street-life survival ("Stick Up Kid"), and finding solace in the Lord ("Made Up My Mind"). Rich, Quiet Storm-flavored grooves dominate these arrangements, and, with a pliable vocal style that falls somewhere between Al Green and Marvin Gaye, the former choirboy readily impresses.
When Jennings isn't pondering whether he should get involved with a mom raising babies ("She Got Kids"), he's hashing out infidelity issues with a lover who might have gotten pregnant ("Hypothetically"). Further bridging the gap between old- and new-school R&B is Jennings's sample of the Four Tops' "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I Got)" for the uplifting "Smile." LYFE 268-192 is a promising debut from a huge talent who seems well on the road to the redemption he seeks.
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