Ryan Leslie is one of music’s largely still undiscovered super-talents, on par with artists like Pharrell and Kanye West, as each a producer, writer, singer, and emcee. He completely self-produced his last two albums, his self-titled Universal / Motown debut, and it’s follow-up, Transition, both released in 2009. Despite this, Ryan Leslie has yet to become a household name, leading to his departure from the major label system, with his new album Les Is More released on his own label, Next Selection.
With this third LP, Leslie attempts to sing less and rap more, all while producing each track on the album, and directing a video for each of the LP’s tracks. The album, like the accompanying videos, suggest the Harvard grad lives an elevated lifestyle of expensive things, in a far off land where they drive on the opposite side of the street. Yet while his previous albums seemed to present him as a bit more down to earth, he really goes all in this time around, sparing no expense in brand-name dropping, as Audemars watches and Cartier bracelets are a regular part of his subject matter.
We do get a bit of the more light-hearted Leslie on the excellent lead single, “Beautiful Lie”, which has a bit of a harder edge than most everything else on the album. Yet much of this record is spent in breezier territory, seducing the females, with warm-comfy tracks like “Dress To Undress You” and “Maybachs and Diamonds”, that find him saying all the right things into a lady’s ear. And if he’s not alluring with his words, there’s a catalogue of finer things to boast about, as heard ad naseum on songs like “Swiss Francs” and “Lovers and Mountains”. While Leslie does attempt to open up and round himself out a bit on tracks like “Glory” and “The Black Flag”, he sadly spends much of his time repeating himself, sounding less like the innovative singer-songwriter of the past, and more like Rick Ross’ ghostwriter of the present.
The musical brilliance of Ryan Leslie cannot be denied, but it’s almost like he’s using his power for evil on Les Is More. Obviously a smart dude, astute businessman, and a talented guy, we simply get a dumbed down version of Leslie this go round. While industry evils have turned the tide of what artists “should” sing or rap about in this day and age, given his track record, we simply expect more from Les.
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