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Ryan Leslie Getting Less Romantic, 'More Introspective' On 'Les Is More'

Transitioning from in-house Bad Boy beatsmith to solo artist, Ryan Leslie earned a cult following with his super melodic dual efforts, 2009's Ryan Leslie and Transition. Surprisingly, though, he wasn't completely happy with them. Besides collaborating recently with other producer heavyweights, he's begun laying the foundation for a third less love-focused disc. VIBE chats with the Harvard alum about his new creative direction and the work he's been putting in. —Clover Hope


VIBE: You’ve been in the studio with Kanye West, Swizz Beatz and Lloyd Banks recently. Where are you at with your solo material?

Ryan Leslie: My solo album is called Les Is More. I premiered one record called “The Glory” at my Bowery [Ballroom] show [in New York] this summer. I have such a specific message that I want to get across musically and lyrically, so I’ve been doing a lot of more writing from the piano in terms of the chords structure, and I’ve also been searching for the right sound. And that’s why I started doing a lot more collaborations, just to sort of play my ideas for Kanye or Swizz or whoever else I’m in the studio with. Just to get some feedback from people I really, really respect, because this project is really special for me. I walked away from a fourth album at Universal [Motown]. Even though they offered to do it, I walked away from it because I really believe that we’re in a crazy, amazing, exciting place as artists, especially artists that create all their own music and visual media, you know? I have some respect as a producer, but I've really started gaining the respect as a collaborator, as a voice on a track or as an artist that’s actually contributing something to the record.

What’s the message you’ve been working on?

Well, my last two albums were very, very focused on relationships. And I think you can listen to my verse on Kanye’s record ["Christian Dior Denim Flow"] or you could listen to—if you were at the Bowery shows—you hear what I’m talking about on “The Glory” or you listen to my voice on a record that I originally had done for Rick Ross. I actually still haven’t spoken to Rick about why we didn’t put that record on his album, but I’m gonna finish the record and I have something to say on that one. The record is called “Maybachs And Diamonds.” I did it at the Bowery with Cory Gunz. I think the final version with Pusha T and Cory. But I just wanna talk a little bit more about, instead of just love and being in love and falling out of love, the human experience that I've observed living in New York City and dealing with the type of girls that I like to deal with, which are really beautiful and may or may not have the same sets of issues that everyone else has because they’re models.

I'm just really being a lot more introspective. Is it really important to date a beautiful girl? What are the drawbacks of it? What is it that you miss? What is it that you should look for? Why is a really beautiful girl so powerful? If we could actually reintroduce people to inner beauty, would the exterior of a really beautiful woman be less powerful? Or do those really beautiful women really understand their power? Why are they so insecure if they’re so powerful? You know what I mean? So, I really just wanna deal with a lot more human issues on this record and I think that’s really why I moved to not just being so melodic and lyrical because some of the stuff I wanna talk about is not really poetic. I mean, it’s poetic, in terms if I’m rapping about it, but it’s not as poetic if I wanna put it into the format of a Stevie Wonder melody or something.

So are you a recovering modelizer?

No, I’m not a recovering modelizer. I mean, I’ve been in a very happy relationship with a Vogue cover girl.

But you’ve learned a lot of lessons from dating them?

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Issa Rae And Kumail Nanjiani Talk Their Black And Brown Dynamic In 'The Lovebirds'

As our latest op-ed points out, black romance films are having a moment, and The Lovebirds is adding a comedic twist to the matter. Ahead of the MRC/Paramount Pictures' premiere on streaming platform Netflix, VIBE correspondent Jazzie Belle sat down with the film's lead actors Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani to discuss the refreshing black and brown dynamic between their characters.

"I think it was just more exciting to me [to take part in a different romantic dynamic]. It was just that, and I didn't realize until later," said Rae. "Obviously with working with Kumail, it just like 'Oh, I haven't seen an on-screen pairing like this' and [I] was excited to play with him cosmetically. But yes, it's exciting to see a new and fresh dynamic in movies like this."

"When you see a portrayal of Pakistanis in American pop culture, generally, you're seeing certain lanes. You don't see us being light or funny or fun that often," said Nanjiani. "My family is very, very funny. My friends are very funny, so it wasn't even an attempt to try and show that [brown characters can be portrayed differently]. I just wanted to show how the people I know are. My mom and my dad are some of the funniest people I've ever met."

Watch the full interview above. The Lovebirds is streaming on Netflix now.

Interview's music bed provided by Gus.

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Man Who Recorded Murder Of Ahmaud Arbery Arrested

A third man has been arrested in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who recorded Arbery’s murder, was taken into custody on Thursday (May 21), the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced.

“The family is extremely relieved,” attorney S. Lee Merritt, who represents Arbery’s mother, said in response to Bryan’s arrest. “We didn’t know if this was going to happen, but we all knew that it should happen.”

Arbery was killed on Feb. 23, while out for a jog. It wasn't until two months later that his story went viral prompting an investigation by the GBI after the local D.A., who was previously over the case, declined to make any arrests.

According to jail records, 50-year-old Bryan was booked into the Glynn County Jail on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. Bryan made his first court appearance on Friday (May 22) where his lawyer filed a motion for a speedy trial.

Bryan accompanied father and son, Gregory McMichael, 64 and Travis McMichael, 34, as they followed and cornered 25-year-old Arbery before the younger McMichael shot him to death. The McMichaels claim the shooting was self-defense.

Father and son were arrested for aggravated assault and felony murder earlier in the month. All three men are being held at the same jail.

The mugshots of Gregory and Travis McMichael, who have been charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. pic.twitter.com/O0M6vPMs1Q

— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) May 8, 2020

Merrit noted that Arbery's family hopes the men will be convicted. “Well obviously we want to see the arrests lead to a formal indictment then a vigorous prosecution and conviction. But there are other people we believe were involved. We spoke with the DOJ earlier today about their investigation into the corruption that delayed these arrests in the first place.”

An attorney for the elder McMichael claimed that the pair are victims of a  “narrative driven by an incomplete set of facts.”

“While the death of Ahmaud Arbery is a tragedy, causing deep grief to his family -- a tragedy that at first appears to many to fit into a terrible pattern in American life -- this case does not fit that pattern,” attorney Frank Hogue said. “The full story, to be revealed in time, will tell the truth about this case.”

The murder remains under investigation by GBI in partnership with the District Attorney Joyette Holmes of the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office.

See more on Bryan's arrest in the video below.

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Quavo Talks Earning His High School Diploma At 29

Quavo officially belongs to the class of 2020. The 29-year-old Migos rapper announced that he graduated from high school on Friday (May 22).

“Finally can say I graduated high school class of 2020,” Quavo captioned an Instagram post of himself sporting a blue cap and gown.

 

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Finally Can Say I Graduated High School Class Of 2020 We Lit 🔥 Now What College Should I Go To? 🧐 And To Celebrate We Gonna Drop SMASH TONIGHT 🔥🌊 BERKMAR HIGH NAWFSIDE BABY

A post shared by QuavoHuncho (@quavohuncho) on May 21, 2020 at 4:26pm PDT

Now that he's a high school graduate, the Georgia native is considering attending college, as he shared in an interview with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Radio alongside Migos members, Takeoff and Offset. During the talk with Tunechi, Quavo expounded on his decision to get his diploma.

“I was doing stuff for the community and schools… always involved and just me being considered like a dropout you’re not really like an alumni,” he said before explaining that one of his former high school teachers is now a principal and encouraged him to get a diploma. “He hit me up like 'you should go back and get it.' I went back and got it.”

Quavo added that Weezy was, “definitely one of my inspirations for going back to school.”

The rapper, whose birth name is, Quavious Keyate Marshall, attended Lilburn’s Berkmar High School, where he was the starting quarterback for the 2009 season. Quavo dropped out of high school in his senior year.

Peep the Migos’ Young Money interview below.

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