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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Dr. Dre Released From Hospital, Will Receive 24-Hour Home Care

Dr. Dre was released from L.A. Cedars Sinai Medical Center on Friday (Jan. 15), nearly two weeks after he suffered a reported brain aneurysm. Ice T confirmed the news tweeting, “Just FaceTimed with @drdre. He just made it home. Safe and looking good.”

The 55-year-old music mogul will remain under 24-hour care for the next few weeks as medical professionals continue to monitor his progress. Doctors are still unclear on what caused the aneurysm.

Dre’s hospital release comes days after new details were revealed in his divorce from estranged wife, Nicole Young. According to court documents publicized this week, Nicole accuses Dre, birth name Andre Young, of putting a gun to her head in 2000 and 2001. She also details other alleged abuse incidents in 1995 (before they were married) and in 2016, when he allegedly punched her in the face and kicked down her door.

The Grammy winner has denied Nicole’s abuse claims.

Nicole and Dre tied the knot in 1996. The pair share two adult children, Truice and Truly. Nicole filed for divorce last summer.

In addition to demanding that Dre cover her legal fees, Nicole wants the court to take the abuse allegations into account when “awarding support and fees.” Dre has already agreed to pay $500,000 of Nicole’s legal bills and $2 million in temporary spousal support.

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Cardi B Lands Leading Role In Comedy ‘Assisted Living’

Cardi B is making her way back to the big screen. The Bronx native officially landed her first leading role in the upcoming Paramount comedy, Assisted Living.

According to Variety, Cardi will play a small time crook struggling to find a hiding place after her latest heist fails. Her character, “Amber,” disguises herself as an elderly woman and hides out at her grandmother's nursing home. The film is described as a “raucous comedy” similar to Mrs. Doubtfire and Sister Act.

Paramount acquired the rights to Assisted Living in 2019. The film’s script was penned by This Is Us writer, Kay Oyegun.

Cardi, 28, made her film debut in the 2019 celeb-heavy stripper flick, Hustlers. The “WAP” rapper appears to have hinted at her Assisted Living role in a recent interview with Billboard where she dished on filming scenes for Fast & Furious 9.

“After ‘Hustlers’ I filmed a little bit for 'Fast & Furious' so I felt like ‘I’m ready for this,’ I knew what to expect,” she explained. “But the characters were a little different so I was like ‘Oh wow, I’m going to need more acting classes.’ I’m planning on doing a movie this year and I’m going to be the lead role so I’m like ‘I need to execute this flawlessly.’”

Besides film, Cardi was a judge on the Netflix completion show, Rhythm & Flow, and landed her own Facebook Watch series, Cardi Tries.

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Wendy Williams Reveals She Was Date Raped By ‘80s R&B Singer

Wendy Williams revealed that she was date raped by  ‘80s R&B singer, Sherrick, early in her radio career. The talk show host shared the story with reporters while promoting her Lifetime biopic Wendy Williams: The Movie on Tuesday (Jan. 12).

“He mesmerized me with his twinkling eyes,” she recalled. “He flipped the interview around to where he was interviewing me — I was just gaga over this man and he asked me to go to an album release party with him that night.

“Before the party, I was date raped by him,” said Williams.

Sherrick, born Lamotte Smith, was a member of the group Kagny, whose song is featured on The Last Dragon soundtrack. He signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1987 and scored a marginal hit with the single “Just Call” off his debut self-titled album. Sherrick struggled with sobriety but declared himself “drug-free” before dying of unknown causes in 1999.

Williams says that she was raped in Sherrick’s Washington D.C. hotel room and it, unfortunately, wasn’t her first time being sexually assaulted. The New Jersey native had been date raped in college. “Those types of things happen to girls all the time and they’ve been happening a lot, to a lot of our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and their great-great-grandmothers too.”

From the sounds of it, Sherrick's widow doesn't exactly believe Williams' story. She not only questioned Williams' account but wondered why she waited so long to go public, and why she didn't call police at the time of the incident.

“As I will never minimize or dismiss the horrid actions of sexual assault, I am saddened that Ms. Williams feels the need to publicly make these allegations when the man she is accusing is no longer on this earth to defend himself,” Lynne Conner Smith said in a statement to Page Six.  “Our family does not know Ms. Williams and are not aware of any relationship or encounter they may have had.”

The sexual assault will be chronicled in the film, as well as other details from Williams' life -- like her rise to talk show fame, her battle with drug addiction, and marriage to ex-husband Kevin Hunter.

Wendy Williams: The Movie premieres on Lifetime on Jan. 30.

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