Much can be said about an artist who has a reputation that precedes him.
Ryan Leslie was a Harvard graduate by the age of 19 and then went on to become a beatmaker for everyone from Britney Spears, Fabolous and Kanye West. He’s also a master of strategic social media, responsible for Cassie’s popularity on MySpace and the subject of over 43 million views on YouTube. And now the multi-talented artist has created a new album done entirely his own way.
After recently dropping his second video, “Beautiful Lie,” out of a 10-part series for the album, Leslie caught up with VIBE.com to explain why he took a different approach in delivering his upcoming project.
“I decided to do a visual album because I believe we’re at a time where technology affords an artist to be more expressive,” Leslie said. He returned to the viral vehicle (YouTube) that allowed him to connect with the world musically. “I really had to ramp up that distribution channel to make an album that you could not only listen to, but an album you can watch.”
Les Is More will be Leslie’s fourth album to date. He says this project contains more rapping to go along wiht his black-and-white visuals. In his recent “Beautiful Lie” video, Ryan (along with model girlfriend Kenza Fourati) is seen rapping about the good life in Paris, but taking the common term and elevating its meaning into ‘having something to believe in.’
Originally, the video was lost when Leslie and his production team came back to New York and even though the second filming cost triple the amount of what it probably should have, Leslie didn’t want to rob his fans of the video. “Evan Rogers, my cinematographer, said ‘Look man, are you ready to fly back to Paris and do this all over again?’ And I’ve never been a quitter.”
The DC native’s work ethic speaks for itself. Although his past releases didn’t translate into numbers that record labels equated with success, the now independent artist always acted on his passion.
“One of the best pieces of advice that I ever got from a mentor was take everyone’s opinion, listen to everyone’s opinion, but only really take advice from people who are in a position that you want to be in,” Leslie said.
He looks to Kanye West as the “benchmark” when it comes to being respected as an artist overall. West, who also started his music career primarily as a producer, is not only a peer but a fan of Leslie’s.
“I was making records and when he sent me back an e-mail with an emphatic, ‘Yo man, I love your raps,’ that basically trumped anyone else’s opinion.”
Now with his new album, Ryan does what comes natural once again: the unexpected. “Whatever you were accustomed to hearing before, this album is more.”