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
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. 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 a cappella group The Krokodiloes. Due to the conflict with music and school, Ryan 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 go in the music industry. They told him he had a better future since he graduated college at age 20. He said he was going to do it for two years and if he didnt like it he will stop. Lesli stayed in Boston to remain a part 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 job. For the next several months, Leslie worked towards developing a distinct sound. During this period, Ryan 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, Ryan worked on various Bad Boy 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 Ryan’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, Ryan 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.
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 2.2 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, Leslie's directorial debut and 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 last month—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. Ryan Leslie Produced a song
for Samyr De Souza
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'.
Leslie is considered a pioneer for his sharp online marketing skills. His intuitiveness of the shift in technology has kept him ahead of the game with establishing an online presence. Leslie’s blog, YouTube channel, MySpace page and most recently Twitter have been the biggest contributors to his growing fanbase. Leslie releases content that brings fans into his lifestyle as a musician. His videos have become some of the most popular on YouTube, bringing accolades such as "Top 10 Most Subscribed Users". Leslie also posts videos documenting his interaction with his audience, including giving away free iPods, backstage passes to his concerts, and invitations to have dinner with him. His energy and creative spontaneity have earned him the respect from those inside and outside of the music industry. On his website/video diary, there is a clip featuring artists such as Boyz II Men, Chrisette Michelle, Musiq Soulchild, Keri Hilson, Christina Milian, and David Banner praising him for the inspiration they have received from his videos.
Prior to his 2009 MySpace Release concert, Leslie
encouraged aspiring musical artists to utilize digital media while
While working as a producer, Leslie went on to create NextSelection Lifestyle Group, his music-media company. Ryan signed his first artist, Cassie in 2005. Under Ryan’s guidance, Cassie went on to become one of the fastest rising R&B acts that year. Her breakout smash "Me & U" (written and produced by Leslie) spent 20 weeks on the Top 40 and went on to reach number three on the Billboard Hot 100, selling over a million digital units. Me & U also went on to become one of the biggest records in the history of Atlantic Records.
Recently, Ryan signed Krys Ivory as his newest
act under NextSelection. He also signed Youtube star Mia Rose.
Leslie has stated in many interviews that Stevie
Wonder is one of the biggest influences on his music. He attributes
Michael Jackson, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Quincy Jones,
The Beatles, and D'Angelo as musical heroes as well.
Leslie was named one of "New
York's 50 Hottest Bachelors" in 2009 by PageSix Magazine, published by the New York Post.
* 2009: Ryan Leslie
* BET Awards
* Grammy Awards
* Soul Train Awards
* Academic Awards
Kemet & Maat
: before Judaism, Christianity and Islam