Ryan Leslie Biography
Ryan Leslie was born into a multicultural (mixed race) family. Leslie is the oldest son of mother (Evangeline) Mooi Leslie who is of Caribbean Dutch, Chinese, and African descent, and father Clement Leslie who is from Barbados and of Irish ancestry, raised in Trinidad. His parents were Salvation Army officers who frequently relocated for work. Ryan has lived in various states, cities, and countries. At an early age, Leslie taught himself how to play the piano. He developed the ability to recite music, as well as arrange chords to create songs. At the age of 14, Leslie scored a 1600 on his SATs—a perfect score—while attending Bear Creek High School, in Stockton,California. In 1993, he applied to four University of California campuses as well as Stanford, Yale and Harvard. In his application essays he explained his interest in matriculating from his junior year in high school without having earned a diploma. He was accepted to all except Yale. He ultimately decided to attend Harvard College. At the age of 19, Leslie graduated from Harvard with a degree in Government, concentrating in Political Science and Macroeconomics. During his commencement ceremonies, Ryan delivered the prestigious Harvard Oration.
During his freshman year at Harvard, Leslie devoted many hours per week to creating and developing music in a studio basement on campus. He taught himself basic production skills and also developed a musical style of his own. As the semesters progressed, Leslie spent more and more time in the school's studio molding his craft. He also performed many events around campus and was a part of the school's all male acappella group The Krokodiloes. Due to the conflict with music and school, Leslie was put on academic probation three times during his college career. He has said in many interviews that during those college years, he became accustomed to getting 2 to 3 hours of sleep per night. To earn disposable income during these years, Leslie sold instrumentals to local artists in the Boston area.
After graduating college, Leslie forced his parents to allow him to go in to the music industry. They told him that he could have a better future considering he graduated from college at the age of 19. Leslie insisted that he was going pursue his musical interests for two years and if he didn't like it he would stop. Leslie remained in Boston because of its music scene. He took on community service jobs to help support himself and would spend nights in the recording studio working on his music. Eventually, Leslie moved back home with his parents in Phoenix where he convinced them to take out a loan for a production studio so that he could pursue music full-time. He vowed to his family that he would pay back the $15,000 loan one day, even if it meant going back to school and getting a more traditional job. For the next several months, Leslie worked towards developing a distinct sound. During this period, Leslie has said that he ate and slept very little. In the summer of 2003, Ryan landed a production internship with producer Younglord. He has said in interviews that he considers this 30-day internship the jump-start of his career in the music industry. Within the first week, Leslie produced the song “Keep Giving Your Love To Me” that would later be performed by Beyoncé for the Bad Boys II soundtrack. The soundtrack was supervised by Sean “Diddy” Combs, who was impressed by Leslie’s production style and offered him a management contract upon meeting him.
Under the management of Combs, Leslie worked on various Bad Boy Records projects including releases from Loon, Cheri Dennis, B5, New Edition and Danity Kane. During that time, Leslie also co-produced a record for Britney Spears. Also in 2003, Leslie was introduced by his then attorney Ed Woods to Tommy Mottola. Mottola soon became a mentor of Leslie’s and offered him a publishing deal with Aspen Songs and a recording contract with Casablanca, Mottola's imprint distributed by Universal Music Group. Under the mentorship of Mottola and Combs, Leslie signed then-aspiring model Cassie Ventura to his imprint, NextSelection in 2005.
In late 2003, Leslie began recording his debut album entitled Just Right, and released two singles: "The Way That U Move Girl" and "Used 2 Be" (with Fabolous). The album was never officially released due to creative differences between Leslie and his record label.
Debut album, Transitions, & Leaving Label
Ryan Leslie returned to the studio in 2006 to record a new debut album. The lead single, "Diamond Girl", was released in December 2007. The video for "Diamond Girl" was premiered on BET’s 106 & Park, and released on Leslie’s YouTube channel with a special behind the scenes clip. In November 2007, he released a video for a song named "I-R-I-N-A" that was produced in-house and released through his YouTube channel as well.
His second single, "Addiction," features pop singer and protege Cassie with a rap cameo from long-time collaborator, rapper Fabolous. The song was officially released in August 2008. Of the two music videos made for the song, the "Making of 'Addiction'" clip became Leslie's most popular video on YouTube, with more than 3.2 million views.
His third single, "How It Was Supposed To Be," also has two music videos: a rock version and a military take on the song, which was Leslie's directorial debut and was co-directed by model Tyson Beckford. The single was released March 23, 2009. After many setbacks, his self-titled album, Ryan Leslie, was finally released on February 10, 2009. Leslie wrote, arranged, produced, and performed every song on his album. Notable instrumentalists on his debut set include Tommy Mottola, Tom "T-Bone" Wolk, and Brent Paschke.
Ryan Leslie enamored old and new fans alike (June 23) during the first of two back-to-back performances at New York City's Bowery Ballroom. The R&B singer/rapper/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist(who parted ways with former label Universal Motown mid 2010) celebrated his new-found independence with performances of former hits like "Addicted" and "How It Was Supposed to Be," as well as two new tracks: "Glory" and "Maybachs and Diamonds."
"Never had a top ten, but they still respect my art," Ryan Leslie sang during "Glory," which is slated to be included on his third release, "Les Is More" -- his first independent album following 2009's self-titled debut and "Transition." "Maybachs and Diamonds" is a slow, groovy tune about flourishing his partner with more than just material things, like "Maybachs and Diamonds."
Initially, Leslie had a four-album deal with Universal, but toward the end of that contract, "Universal was interested in reshaping my deal to more of a 360, and they actually made a counter-offer from the initial recording fund," Leslie tells Billboard.com. "At that point I saw that as a window to potentially branch off and try something that was going to be new and dynamic."
While Leslie did not make any formal announcements about his departure from Universal Motown during the set, he took some subtle jabs at his previous label home. "I've always wanted to play these songs but I couldn't before," he said while singing "Guardian Angel." "I always felt like this song should be a single.
 Les Is More
Ryan Leslie announced on Twitter and Facebook in January 2011, that his third album would be released July 4th, 2011. His first single will be 'Beautiful Lie'.