Ryan Leslie - Ryan Leslie

Posted 7 years ago
Tags: Ryan Leslie,

Ryan Leslie is a complicated man, and like most complicated things, America’s had some...

Ryan Leslie Album Review

Ryan Leslie is a complicated man, and like most complicated things, America’s had some trouble figuring him out. Leslie graduated from Harvard – yeah, that Harvard – with a degree in economics, but perhaps sensing that our economy was about to collapse faster than Ja Rule’s career, he decided to pursue his real love, music. Although his initial attempts to release an album were riddled with delays, Leslie flipped that experience into a burgeoning marketing company and an impressive production career, laying down tracks for the likes of Beyonce, Cheri Dennis, and of course, Cassie. But even with these ample successes, his real ambition was to make it as a solo artist, a complicated scholar/businessman/singer/rapper/producer kind of solo artist.

Quick side note: Ryan Leslie will never be a mega star because, well, his last name is Leslie. You might wish our culture didn’t care if an artist’s last name made him sound like a white teenage girl, but this is the music industry. Image matters. You could be the dopest rapper since Biggie, but if your name is Clifford Harris, you might want to change that s**t to T.I. Now I’m not saying he should change his name to RL-Murder, I’m just saying the name’s not doing him any favors.

Speaking of which, it probably wasn’t a great call for him to self-title his debut album, Ryan Leslie. But I don’t want to get carried away with the name thing (more than I already have), especially considering the man’s music is more than strong enough to stand on its own. As you’d expect from someone who owns a media marketing company, Ryan Leslie is a finely polished album that showcases his talent for engaging melodies and layered arrangements, and while his voice isn’t charismatic or powerful enough to carry him to stardom, respect is given where respect is due.

Leslie catapulted into the national consciousness with the surprise hit, Diamond Girl. Making a record that perfectly balances hip-hop’s swagger and R&B’s smoothness isn’t easy, which is why people take notice when Diamond Girl walked that line with precision and skill. It’s a damn good song, but let’s be honest, you remember Diamond Girl primarily because of the production, not Leslie’s voice (more on that later). Leslie works the formula again to pop perfection with Addiction, layering swirling synths over stripped down production to hypnotic effect. Individually I’m not huge Cassie or Fabolous fans, but I’ll be damned if they don’t fit perfectly here. For his part Leslie adopts an almost John Legend-esque singing style, hitting every note with an easy grace before switching to a falsetto for the hook. This is the kind of track that gets you widespread radio play and while “mainstream” is a dirty word in some circles, when if comes to Ryan Leslie it simply means that his music makes a lot of people very happy.

Where Ryan Leslie, the artist and the album, falls short is ironically when it displays the full range of his talents. He’s a damn good producer and musician, but only a decent rapper and an above-average singer, and when you’re competing against the Kanyes and Ne-Yos of the world, good just isn’t good enough. Take Quicksand, an up-tempo jam with a live instrumentation feel that turns the spotlight squarely on Leslie’s vocal abilities. While he hits every note with skill, there’s a long list of singers who could have done the same job. Or on the more hip-hop side, Leslie seizes on You’re Fly as an opportunity to drop a couple custom verses. While the man shouldn’t hesitate to grab a mic, I don’t think anyone’s rushing to get a pad and pen after lines like “I’ve got great taste in women, I’ve had a lot but when it comes to great face you’re winnin.” Now don’t get it twisted and think I’m putting Leslie in “in a box.” What makes this album enjoyable is its diverse sound, but not all boxes were created equal. For example, put me in a writing box and I’m gonna crush it, but put me in a singing box and things will go downhill faster than Oprah’s waistline. The simple truth is that when Leslie’s in his pop/R&B producer mode, like on How It Was Supposed To Be, he’s a hit machine. When he steps too far out that box, like on the piano ballad I-R-I-N-A, he’s suddenly unremarkable. And if that sounds complicated, that’s because Ryan Leslie is complicated. All talented people are.

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

Comments
Written by
Posted 7 years ago
Get The PLUG app by DJBooth and get the best hip-hop writing and news delivered daily.

Sample Text - Sample Link
0:00
3:00
Shrink
Hide

More from Ryan Leslie

Featured Video

Hip Hop News

Isaiah Rashad: “I’m Making a Mixtape Nobody Will Ever Hear”

On the eve of his sophomore album release, the TDE emcee teases another project. Read More
Posted about 11 hours ago by DJ Z

Big Boi Announces Collabo EP with Killer Mike, Let’s Get Excited

The two have collaborated multiple times, but never on a full project. This is huge. Read More
Posted 12 hours ago by Brent Bradley

Kanye Made a Poem About McDonald’s, WTF Does it Mean?

Kanye has taken some weird artistic turns in the past, but a poem about McDonald’s just begs to be investigated. Read More
Posted 13 hours ago by Brent Bradley

Frank Ocean “Blond/Blonde” 1 Listen Album Review

Frank Ocean's long-awaited new studio album is his most adventurous project to date. Read More
Posted about 15 hours ago by Yoh

Can We Please Stop Calling Them “Female Rappers”?

It’s time we praise these women for being dope emcees and stop attempting to sexualize their art. Read More
Posted about 16 hours ago by Brent Bradley

Moronic NY Post Reporter Discovers Rapper Ka is FDNY Captain, Labels Him “Anti-Cop”

The NY Post strikes again, spinning rapper slash NYFD captain Ka's lyrics into an anti-cop rhetoric. Read More
Posted 16 hours ago by DJ Z

TRENDING NOW



Flame

TOP 20 MUSIC CHARTS


Discover the best new songs, videos, and albums added to the Booth.