Ryan Leslie Q&A (Pg. 2)
Yeah, and I’ve learned life lessons from all the things that we talk about in our music, especially Black music. Why are so concerned with luxury? Why are we concerned with exclusivity? Why are we concerned with the things that make other people jealous? You know what I mean? These are the type of issues that I really wanna tackle on this album and make it an album about just my own humanity and hopefully through that actually reach out and talk to people. Maybe they are going through these things because they have the dream and the aspiration. ‘I want that life. I want a Maybach. I want a super fly girl. I want the Louis Vuitton bag. I want the Dior shades. That’s all I want.’ Then they actually feel a sense of worthlessness or they feel a sense of desperation or hopelessness when they realize it’s really way outside of what they can achieve through their traditional means, so they start dreaming of ‘Oh, I just wanna be an entertainer or an athlete ‘cause then I ain’t gotta worry about my credit right now.’
So these are all things just in life. I’ve spoken at schools. I have gone and looked at the hope in the eyes of an audience of entertainment hopefuls at Berkeley College of Music and understanding that they may not really get what it takes to be successful in anything, so if you wanna be successful at dating models, you wanna be successful at being a musician, you wanna be successful being an athlete, you wanna be successful being an instrumentalist or a rapper—the people that are really, really successful, and not necessarily the ones that have the talent, are relentless in the pursuit of the goal that they have. It’s absolutely much more multi-layered and real, and I’m really passionate about it. Honestly, I didn’t even really wanna do interviews because I feel like it detracts from what message I wanna convey in the music.
That sounds like a progressive artistic direction. You’re rapping on the “Christian Dior Denim Flow.” Does rapping lend itself more to talking about those deeper topics?
I’m just gonna do whatever I feel in the studio. I appreciate Kanye, Pusha, Fab. But I mean, Pusha jumped on a rap recoerd that I did on my last album. Even when I listen to that record, and I really think about it, I think to myself [that] I wasn’t bringing my super A game. When you grow up your whole life and people tell you, ‘Oh, you’re talented’ and you go to Harvard, like I did, and people are like, ‘Oh, you’re really smart,’ because a lot of folks just don’t work hard you realize that you can get over. You know what I mean? So I feel like in a lot of ways with my first two records, just because I could, I made records and I put them out. Because it may have been more musically sophisticated than something else that was out or anything else that people could compare it to, I was able to get whatever respect and be embraced the way that I was. I listened to those records and I realized to myself that I’m shortchanging myself and my audience and my legacy if I don’t really dig deeper. So I could write you a song and sing you a song right now on the phone about, ‘Hey, I walked down the street and I saw this girl and she’s the most beautiful girl in the world and my heart opened up and now it sings for her’ and I create a metaphor about it, but I feel as though that’s an artistic cop-out. I think people are relative and they compare stuff, so I feel that’s the reason why I’m still on the up. I’m still on an upward trajectory. I haven’t peaked yet.
But there are very well composed songs on those two albums as far as the song structures. You definitely stamped your own sound. Are you working on a new sound?
No, I’m just talking about an evolution. Like, a sophistication. I’m gonna be really frank with you. I feel like I did a disservice to my audience with those albums because I was really able to do those records. I appreciate what you’re saying about them, but I was able to do each one of those records was like a 20-minute record. That’s the thing. If I walk in the studio and order some Chinese food, touch the keyboards and that’s what I can do… Like I said, I can sit down in my apartment right now, sit down at the piano and give you a fully structured song right now just off the top of my head. What I’m saying is that’s a disservice to myself artistically, so what I wanna do with this record is really evolve the art of making records. So if you liked what we did and you thought they were sophisticated and you appreciated it then I feel like what I’m gonna do now is just gonna be completely over everyone’s head or you’ll appreciate it more because I’m going to put 10 times as much attention to really executing my creative vision.
Did Kanye influence that at all? He has a similar mentality of going deeper.