When life gets you down, it will always be beneficial to keep pushing forward with a mindset that everything will eventually bend in your favor. At the current moment, nobody can relate to that notion quite like R&B veteran Lyfe Jennings — his first name alone says it all! — who recently came forward on social media to recount a robbery over the weekend that left him without his Passport, ID, personal laptop and over $120,000 in jewelry.
See below for details on the ordeal from the platinum-selling singer himself:
To hear him discuss the sequence of events may confuse you into believing that Lyfe could care less — a celebrity that probably runs through $120k in travel expenses alone. That however is the furthest case from who the Toledo native is at heart, as we found out during an exclusive sit-down conversation in New York City shortly before his unfortunate run-in out in Oakland.
Stopping by the Lower East Side to meet at local streetwear haven PRIVILEGE New York, the “Must Be Nice” crooner felt surprisingly at home while perusing through racks of fitted baseball caps, crewneck sweaters and custom pieces from Japan. We later found out the reason for that is because he’s in the development stages of launching his own label on a global scale, aptly named Repetition. When we first caught up with the 777 hitmaker, he was already discussing trips overseas to search for the best materials and samples possible.
From that point on, Lyfe opened up to us about everything that goes into starting a brand while also getting people to look at him as more than a soulful voice who can still captivate R&B fans across the world. In addition to streetwear, we also spoke on his new moves in music, if there can ever be real camaraderie in the world of male R&B — looking at you, Mario! — and where he feels his place is currently in the game.
Keep scrolling to get into the current life of Lyfe Jennings:
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BAW: Your last album, 777, was billed as your final project. Is that still the case now that you’re back to making new music again?
Lyfe Jennings: 777 is [still] my last album; I’m just doing one-off songs that have meaning. I decided that I still want to be part of this culture. I love what it is that I do, but at the same time I don’t feel like making albums anymore is progressive. I just want to take topics that I see people going through and put out a song that can help them. I try to do that once every six months.
From both a personal and professional perspective, what’s the biggest things you want people to understand about who you are as an artist in 2023?
Professionally, I’m a businessman. I don’t like to use the term ‘hustler,’ but I take this art form and do it in a way where I can make money to feed my family. Personally, I’m just enjoying this human shit until I get an opportunity to leave here. A lot of people are scared of death because you don’t know what’s out there, but I know there’s just another part to this shit. I’m just trying to enjoy myself so much while I’m here that I’m not fiending after it once it’s all gone.
You’re no stranger when it comes to opening up about your feelings though, as we saw recently when you spoke on the stage anxiety that you’ve been experiencing. Where are you at mentally in that journey back to the stage?
It’s still kind of awkward to be honest. At the same time, I think it’s a good thing because it’s been causing me to revamp what it is that I do. I’m not just talking about onstage, because that applies personally too. [Performing] also opened up my eyes to the people going through a lot of the stuff way before and way after I went through it. In a way, I can incorporate that into my art form and lend some insight.
If we’re talking insight, we’ve got to put the focus on your music video for “Till You Gone” (seen above). With so many angles that you can watch it from, what did you want the message to ultimately be perceived as?
In totality, I was just trying to say, ‘Do your own shit.’ You don’t have to worry about what people have to say when it comes to what you do or what you don’t do. Those people won’t love you until you’re gone and can’t even appreciate their own until they don’t have it anymore. There’s been so many times in my life where I’ve been coerced into doing something by other people who only stood to gain from it. What hurt more than anything is realizing my thought was the right one all along and didn’t go with my gut. Always go with your gut, win or lose.
“I’m not the most stylish, wasn’t the freshest guy in high school, but I found that I know what I like. My brand is patterned after that. “
— Lyfe Jennings
Well, you certainly seem to be on the right path to win with the jumpstart of a new clothing brand. Tell us a little about how you shifted into this arena.
The clothing brand is called Repetition, and it’s just representative of more life shit. The elephant in the logo is tied to a post, but there’s a story: when elephants are babies, a big chain is tied around their leg and onto a metal post. The elephant grows up not being able to get away from the chain, and he learns through trial and error that he’s not getting away. Now that it’s older, he’s so convinced that he can’t get away that the chain gets replaced with a little string. While it could get away physically, he’s mentally trapped. The symbol is to remind people that we have a lot of stuff, from mental to financial, that we can get away from now that we’re older and wiser.
You’ve always maintained a relatable sense of style. Was it always in the cards for you to get into fashion?
I think people will confuse style and say to themselves, ‘I don’t have a style bone in my body’ [Laughs]. They do though! You always know what you like, and I’m quite sure you can find a large group of people that also like what you like. That’s where I’m at with it; I’m not the most stylish, wasn’t the freshest guy in high school, but I found that I know what I like. My brand is patterned after that. If you like it then it’s for you, but if not there’s another brand out here to choose from.
“Must Be Nice,” a signature song by Lyfe Jennings released in summer 2004, went on to peak in the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. That following year, it became the 13th biggest single on the 2005 year-end R&B/Hip-Hop chart and even managed to stay within the top 100 in 2006 thanks to a feature in the cult classic film, ATL.
Jumping back into the music side of your career, we actually did an article recently centered around unsung singers from the 2000s who we miss and would love to hear new music from. Being that you come from that era, what’s the one thing you miss about making music around that time back when R&B was in its prime?
I guess one of the main things I miss about the early 2000s is that you could write about real things. You didn’t have to have a gimmick with it. Nowadays when you put out music, you also got to be the finest person on the Earth, hair got to be popping, social media on point and all these different things all at once. Not that any of those things in and of itself is a bad thing, but it gets so heavy that it stops being about the music anymore. The music now becomes an afterthought. I miss that.
Is there a dream collaboration that, even after all this time, you might be still trying to make happen?
There’s a couple of them! I would love to so something with Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and Common. Those are my top tier three when it comes to that.
The thought of you and Common doing something together, especially since you both kind of look alike, brings me to this idea of camaraderie amongst industry men. Considering your recent back-and-forth with Mario, do you ever feel like their can be peace in the world of male R&B?
First off I think competition, for lack of a better word, is good. It just causes the person to be better. If I see one of my cats that I like killing a song, it inspires me to write something that’s from the best of my ability. I don’t think the ego needs to be as big as the craft though. If we were boxing, then yeah —be the baddest! [Laughs]. It makes sense in that field, but in R&B we not trying to hurt anybody. This is really about love. If anything, you become bigger as a creative force the smaller you shrink your ego. The smaller the ego, the bigger the craft.
What does new music by Lyfe Jennings sound like in 2023?
No more clean versions [Laughs]! I’m never doing a clean version again, but that’s because I don’t have to. I’m in a position where I made my money and I’m straight on that. I no longer have to fall in and do whatever someone asks of me because they’re writing a check for me. My music has already been truthful, but it has admittedly been sanded around the edges to fit into the “shapes” provided. I provide my own shapes now; I don’t sand down shit.
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Exclusive: Lyfe Jennings Talks New Music, Battling Stage Anxiety And Rebuilding His Brand was originally published on blackamericaweb.com
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