Ryan Leslie has remained behind the scenes for most of his career thus far, producing and writing tracks for numerous artists, including Beyonce, Britney Spears, Danity Kane, and most notably, acting as the brains behind Cassie’s breakthrough single, “Me & U”. He was supposed to drop his debut album, Just Right, in 2005, but the LP did not make it stateside, seeing only a European release. But last year he released a solid string of self-produced singles, including “Diamond Girl”, “Addiction”, and most recently “How It Was Supposed To Be”, making the worldwide release of his official self-titled debut inevitable.
Each of his singles have been moderate radio hits, breaking the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts, but still not crossing over into the pop genre. No matter, unlike most pop artists, Leslie writes and produces all of his music himself, right down to playing the instruments, mixing, and engineering the final product. Because of this, his self-titled debut gets a unified sound – something rare in R&B records these days.
“Your Fly” is the first of the album’s new tracks, a breezy guitar driven track finding Leslie floating atop his own production with airy vocals, both sang and rapped. “Quicksand” sounds like the type of music N.E.R.D. should have made after “In Search Of…”, percussion packed beat, yet with more mature lyrical content than you might find from Pharrell and company. Also striking a chord here is “Out Of The Blue”, a heartfelt breakup song where Leslie turns the table on his ex.
However despite the LP’s strong singles and some solid performances within the album, surprisingly there’s more filler within the album’s short 12 track span than one might expect. Songs like “Valentine”, “Good To You”, and “Just Right” dabble in the realm of cliché, separating themselves from the rest of the LP’s more original sounding content. The album’s closer, “Gibberish”, is met with mixed results – it’s a pretty original idea, as Leslie takes a cue from Black Thought, creating a song where he “Don’t Say Nothin’”, however it’s hardly a poignant final statement from the artist.
Ryan Leslie has the potential to follow in the footsteps of say, a John Legend. He’s a highly original artist who creates all of his own music and has a unique sound compared to most everything else in the genre. Fittingly however, this album without a title sums up its main issue, that being a lack of substance. – Pizzo
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