You Know I Got Soul: Ryan Leslie

This edition of You Know I Got Soul picks the brain of a man who scored a perfect 1600 on his SAT exam in high school and graduated Harvard at 19 years old. While the brain power of Ryan Leslie …

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edition of You Know I Got Soul picks the brain of a man who scored a perfect 1600

on his SAT exam in high school and graduated Harvard at 19 years old. While the

brain power of Ryan Leslie may be ideal for more practical professions such as

medicine or law, Ryan undoubtedly chose music as his battle to divide and



Leslie’s newly released self-titled debut album has won the affection of many

fans as “Diamond Girl” and “Addiction” set the tone of his long awaited

project. From managing the content on his website,, to assembling the

music he produces, including vocal and instrumental arrangements, Ryan has

proved that he is self sufficient in the literal sense. Does his bank of

creativity ever run dry? In no particular order Ryan forfeits his top five

songs of inspiration and artistic masterpiece that would spark his creative

juices, but if he had his way the list would be extended and highly dedicated

to Stevie Wonder.

1.     “It’s a Man’s World”

by James Brown

First of all, the string arrangement, the topic

that he’s talking about, his passion in the delivery, the way that record is

recorded, the lyrical content – I mean, it’s James Brown. It’s a man’s

world and it also speaks to me because as much as I consider myself self

sufficient in the studio and everything, if I don’t have a muse – I don’t

know if it’s a good rep or a bad rep that I had some very beautiful muses in my

experience in New York City – but it’s a man’s, man’s world, but it

wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl. So, you know, it speaks to me

because it’s real.

We as men are so ambitious and we want so much and

in history we’ve been afforded so many opportunities that maybe haven’t been

fairly offered to the opposite sex. I think it’s always good. I think it’s

always important to understand the value of women to us and they have

definitely been extremely valuable to me from my mother to my sister to the

various relationships that I have fallen into and fallen out of and succeeded

and failed at. 2.     “Diamonds &

Pearls” by Prince

Amazing record. Lyrical content, once again. That’s

something that all of us have whether we’re wealthy, whether we’re just

struggling to make ends meet. Something that we all share equally is the amount

of hours in a day and the amount of times that we allocate to our loved ones [because

it’s] very important. It’s a very important decision that we make. Even in just

listening to the way that the song is recorded melodically, the use of [Rosie

Gaines] singing adlibs. I love that! It’s Prince, man! He produced it and he’s

playing on it. I love that.

3.     “The Line” by D’Angelo

I just love the lyrics. I love the vibe of that

song. The song is just so cool. It has a lot of very cool confidence without

being histrionic. D’Angelo is just one of the coolest cats musically I’ve ever

experienced in listening to his stuff. That song really speaks on the way that

I approach my music every day. That lyrical content has always been inspiring

to me. I like the music, the harmony, the lyrics, everything.

4.     “As” by Stevie Wonder

Amazing lyrical content, amazing musicianship,

amazing vocal performance – I mean just so inspirational. There’s so many

ways I could describe the genius of Stevie Wonder. I’m almost overwhelmed. I

can’t even begin to describe how crazy that record is – the chord

changes, the layers and textures, his use of back-up vocalists, just incredible

all around.5.     “Billie Jean” by

Michael Jackson

An amazing collaboration between two titans of

the music industry – Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones. To know that

Michael Jackson was, I believe 20 when he wrote this song and he brought it to

Quincy Jones it was based on an experience that he had where someone jumped

over the fence of his hotel and accused him of being the father of her child. He

was able to take that experience, which had nothing to do with – it was

just a real life experience and turned it into the most enduring dance, party,

club tracks in history to me.

I just loved the fact that as a 20 year old he

could put this – I actually heard the demo of that song. The demo of the

song is on the 20th Century re-mastered collectors edition of Thriller. And you got to listen

to the demo of that song because he’s there and he’s kind of thinking of the

melody and he has his synthesizer [sings the melody of “Billie Jean”]. The way

that Quincy Jones arranged that piece is always inspiring to me. I can always listen

to that and be inspired. I mean [there are] a lot of records off the Thriller album, but that one [is

the one] and because Michael wrote it too at such a young age.

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