A titan on the boards, Ryan Leslie once again returns to wow listeners with his signature production style and lavish tales of exclusivity. No longer in his contract at Universal Motown, the Washington D.C. singer/songwriter is now free of restraints and living the independent life under his own NextSelection Lifestyle imprint. A distinctly visual album, Les Is More plays like the ultimate success story and with ten accompanying videos – or motion pictures as Leslie likes to refer to them – listening to the 14-track project becomes a completely different experience.
Fans of his previous works will know that Leslie is usually a bit of a vocal extraordinaire, in terms of his contrasting delivery and key change experimentation, yet his latest offering sees him take his foot off the gas as far as the crooning goes. Making a point from the get go, “Glory” hears the multi-instrumentalist exchange singing for rapping. Spitting bars with a purpose, the grand band assisted joint comes off sounding like a letter to the haters signed with a great big middle finger. Addressing the delivery change he raps, “You ask me why I’m rapping, well I’ll give you the reason/ The same reason you’re hating when you should be believing/ It’s in your heart to hate, it’s in my heart to win/So yeah I’m rapping now, let the hating begin.”
No hate intended, there are parts throughout Les Is More where Leslie comes off sounding slightly corny – but the fact that he’s speaking from his own reality and not someone else’s, his weaker bars still offer a sense of realism that brings you closer to the man and his story. [Think Will Smith with a higher calibre of instrumentation?]
Speaking of instrumentation, anybody familiar with Ryan Leslie and his production skills will know that he’s held in high regard by many of the industry’s elite. Having produced for, and with, the likes of Kanye West, Diddy, Fabolous and Lloyd Banks, his clientele list is as impressive as his thorough techniques. With that said, Les Is More is just another excuse for Leslie to show off – and show off he does.
The impressive instrumental build up heard on “Beautiful Lie” is somewhat of a marvel. Electronically stunning with a bass heavy undertone in parts, the track itself is a dedication to the grind, reaping the rewards for his hard graft in its piece by piece construct. With layer upon layer added, the track, and its remix featuring Fabolous (which closes the album out), is a testament to Ryan Leslie’s undeniable talent.
It’s also obvious that Leslie did in fact intend to make a few balleriffic anthems to give those with copious amounts of money something to wild out to. One of said tracks is the braggadocios “Swiss Francs.” Again building the beat from little instrumentation to a loud crescendo, Leslie’s confidence reaches an all time high as he spits, “Bills foreign, Swiss Francs/ [Be]fore I die I stack my money in a Swiss bank/ I can see right through these haters, fish tanks/ Plus they frowning at my watch like my wrist stanks.”
Another track similar in the bragging stakes is the beautifully structured “Maybachs & Diamonds,” but instead of spending on himself his earnings are instead offered to his better half, who in real life is Vogue cover girl Kenza Fourati. The perfect record for any guy trying to entertain his girl with the idea of big dreams and a beautiful future, Leslie really needs to think about getting Maybach Music head honcho Rick Ross on a remix.
After much thought, Ryan Leslie’s production has never felt more established than it does on this album. Without doubt one of the most talented individuals in music today, his new lease of life as far as independence goes has allowed him to play around with visuals, vocals, and song structures. With a few bars that leave a lot to be desired as far as quality goes, he just needs to stick at it and not totally disregard his singing talent. A perfect balance is all that’s needed to make things right, because let’s be honest… his production needs no improvement. Perhaps a more Transition-leaning Ryan Leslie might help him to achieve this in future.