Jennings, who got his break as a five-time winner of Showtime at the Apollo, pours his life experiences into his music. His platinum debut, 2004’s Lyfe 268-192, reflected on his 10-year prison stint for arson; his second album, The Phoenix, deals with Jennings’s rise from the ashes to R&B star and responsible father. Setting up songs with spoken interludes, Jennings draws the listener into his world. This disc’s hit first single, the cautionary ballad “S.E.X.,” was inspired by the young groupies he has encountered: “Heard you just turned 17 and finally got some hips/Hustlers on the block go crazy when you lick your lips/But they just want relations, they don’t want relationships.” It’s this kind of insight, rendered with a mix of street grit and gospel fervor, that separates Jennings from all those R. Kelly wannabes.
DOWNLOAD THIS: “S.E.X.”