What You Can Learn From Ryan Leslie

by Moe Arora on February 17, 2009

ryanlesliealbumcover

I’ve been waiting for this album for years. And when I say years, I mean, before his YouTube channel became a hit and before anybody knew who Cassie was.

I remember first hearing his music before he signed with Casablanca; some artists I knew had signed a deal with NextSelection at the time and R. Les was working with Cory Gunz & Latif. Back when I was jamming to “Me & U” before the Bad Boy stamp (I’ll leave that story for another day).

If you’ve heard R. Les’ album, you already know that the music is incredible. But there’s more to it than just that. I truly love this project because it’s a solid example of something I feel very strongly about: real vs fake.

Too many people get caught up in BS when they hear the newest he-said/she-said gossip:

“OMG, did you see that picture of this Rapper A hugging his mother? WTF? I thought he was hard! I thought he was a street thug. What’s he doing being all soft hugging his mother like that? WTF? Like, what’s that all about?”

Or

“Did you see that video on WorldStarHipHop of some random guy talking into his webcam from his bedroom saying he has proof that Singer B is gay? OMG, he even said that all Singer B’s jewelry is fake & that he had to beg Producer C for a song so that he could have a ringtone song for his label to push as a single. I mean, it’s on the internet so it MUST BE TRUE!”

Please go and sit down with all of that.

It’s getting increasingly annoying to watch people pull stupid moves in an attempt to impress. And unfortunately, this quest for constant attention (regardless of what kind of attention it is), has greatly affected how artists create/release their music.

What ever happened to being YOU?

Yes, this is the entertainment industry, but there is a difference between “entertainment” and “fake bullshit”.

Entertainment involves refining existing assets, touching them up and packaging them in a marketable manner.

Fake bullshit is when you pretend to be something you are not and attempt to fool everybody by claiming that it really is you. That’s you lying to everybody; including yourself.

It’s the difference between acting the role of a thug in a school play and pretending to be a thug everyday.

It’s the difference between butter and margarine.

It’s the difference between a Phantom & a Chrysler 300.

It’s the difference between Ryan Leslie and Yung Berg.

As an industry that helps create imagery, trends and what’s “cool”, it’s unfortunate to see that so many people who are IN the industry get caught up they way they do.

That’s like offering the CEO position at a major label to the kid who watches 106 & Park religiously and really believes that everything he’s seeing is real.

The lines between art mimicking reality and reality mimicking art are blurring and we are stuck with a bunch of people attempting to live life like they’re in a music video or gangster movie and then regurgitating that same sense of false reality into the media that they put out.

That’s what we have today; we went from being real influencers, to becoming influenced influencers.

You think the “broken telephone” exercise you used to do in school would cloud a message? Imagine this!

Creating something to make yourself marketable is fine & dandy, and that’s my forté so I definitely understand the need for it, but don’t fake your qualities. You’re not Joey Tribbiani; you don’t speak French. Stop lying!

When you’re asleep at night, if somebody woke you up frantically, would you be “you” or would you be completely exposed because your façade hasn’t been prepared yet?

Can you be you, without a massive disco ball chain?

Can you be you, without a gun in your waistband?

Can you be you, without 3 strippers on your lap and a duffle bag full of stacks of cash?

Can you be you, without any co-signs?

Can you?

Ryan Leslie can.

His whole album shows you that.

The lyrics are him, the melodies are him, the artwork is him and the videos are him.

The whole project is him!

You don’t need to be a producer or songwriter for this to work for you. Working with others is fine; and its encouraged, but the most important thing to remember is to be you!

If you can “be you” well, that alone is going to be your biggest asset and will weigh you above anybody else with 100 co-signs who’s not being themselves.

They might make some moves now; but sooner, rather than later, they WILL fall. And once they do; they won’t be able to come back because their bullshit has been exposed.

The elements will always be your strongest weapon. Just refine them and make sure you can do “you” better than anybody else.

That’s it.

Just be you and make sure you do it damn well.

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