When we interviewed producer Ryan Leslie a few issues back, we wanted to find out more about about his shelved solo album - but he wouldn't shut up about all the new songs he was working on at the time with his artist Cassie. To be completely honest, we were kinda fronting in response: EVERYBODY believes their current project is the greatest thing ever. Thing is, R-Les might have been right after all. The self-titled Cassie LP (in stores tomorrow) is a real gem, 11 tracks of soaring synth-n-b with spaced out, vapor-mist melodies all over the place. Bleep bleep clap bleep (WOOSH), etc. If you like the pop musics, pick it up tomorrow. If you want to find out more about the maestro, read Leslie's Gen F profile after the jump.
Ryan Leslie is a business, man.
By Nick Barat
When collaborating with R Kelly, Jay-Z was quick to assert, “This ain’t R&B smooth/ I ain’t an R&B dude.” Ryan Leslie is most definitely an R&B dude. It’s not just the sunglasses-at-night, open collar ladies’ man he plays in promo photos and on the covers of mixtapes like The Talented Mr Leslie and DJ Sense’s Rhythm And Streets, or the plucked-guitar bump and grind of New Edition’s “Hot 2 Nite” and other babymakers he’s written and produced. It’s the way he casually peppers conversation with first name references to associates like Tommy Mottola and Puff Daddy, “bidding wars” and IPO-pitch worthy details about his management and promotion company. He’s as well-versed in selling slow jams as producing them.
Yet for someone so intimately familiar with what label machinery needs to make a song a hit, Leslie’s own music is refreshingly unconventional and adventurous. “I just try to write real songs over real music, using non-traditional sounds,” says Leslie, who first started making beats as a Stevie Wonder-obsessed Harvard undergrad. “I’ve spent a lot of time abroad—I discovered New Jack Swing and MC Hammer when I was 13 living in Belgium—and I want to channel that experience into doing something that’s not ‘American urban music’ per se, but just music—rhythm and soul and any other elements you need.” His solo LP Just Right is filled with left-field joints like “Lay U Down”, a self-described “club ballad” where shoegazing falsetto melodies ride backwards drum whooshes, cowbell clacks and unexpected, Beatles-esque chord changes, and “Used 2 Be”, which reanimates the awesome midtempo feel of ’80s dance nuggets like Nu Shooz’ “I Can’t Wait” and sounds like nothing on the radio right now.
Although various singles from Just Right have already been pressed for DJs, there’s no release date in sight. “I’d almost rather it never come out, and be mysterious and legendary,” Leslie says, so it’s been back to a full-time industry hustle. “When I found out that my record wasn’t coming out, I started responding to some of the A&R requests Puff had lined up for me,” he explains. He’s been crafting songs for various artists on Bad Boy (“Hot 2 Nite” was originally on Leslie’s solo demo), Nina Sky, and his own signing, a budding pop star named Cassie. “I think I’m onto something pretty special right now,” he says. “It’d be crazy of me not to focus my attention on this instead of my artist career, especially with so many major players trying to bring us on. Maybe this will be the way my own music gets exposed.” Maybe—but it’s going to be a bummer if Leslie’s uniquely personal Just Right heaters get remade into album cuts for the Making The Band 3 girls.