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Exclusive Interview: Ryan Leslie Is Probably The Smartest Man In The Music Business; Talks SuperPhone, Rihanna, Cassie & more

ryan-leslie

SFPL‘s Gabriel Williams recently caught up with Ryan Leslie during his concert at the Highline Ballroom in New York City. The talented singer-songwriter-lyricist-musician-producer and entrepreneur held an exclusive event for his fans, in which he performed a plethora his songs, and even went back into his music catalog of renowned hits.

In case you were under a rock, Ryan is a well-respected Grammy-nominated musician, tech entrepreneur and champion of artist rights who has made it his mission to transform the way that people create, share and meaningfully connect with their greatest supporters.

ryan-leslie

A Harvard graduate at 19 who has been lauded by Kanye West as one of the music industry’s only capable creative directors, today Leslie is known within the industry as living on the forefront of music, business and innovation.

Independently, Leslie has been able to earn over $2 million in one album cycle with the support of just 15,000 fans through Superphone.

Musically, Leslie is also a highly respected artist and Grammy-nominated producer who’s worked with Kanye, Chris Brown, Cassie, Fabolous and Rick Ross. In 2013, Leslie released his subscription-based lifetime album MZRT, which releases one song every month for the rest of his career.

‘MZRT’ subscriptions are available to a limited group of 1,000 friends and supporters. Higher support levels come with greater access to Leslie’s world and creative process through exclusive content. He only accepts support for the album during months where a song is released.

After the show, Gabriel sat down with Ryan as they discussed a few topics from new music, new artists that he’s listening to, Rihanna, fashion, his lucrative business called SuperPhone, and even open to the possibility of getting back into the studio with Cassie, if asked.

What’s Ryan been up to?

Traveling the world, that’s what I do. I just came back from Tel Aviv and it was beautiful. I spent a lot of time overseas in Europe and everything.

Project in the works?

My project is a lifetime album. So, I am dropping a song every month until I decide to retire from the game. The way you subscribe to it, you send me a text, you authorize a payment, then you can say how much you think the song is worth. People give me anywhere from between $1 to $100 a song. Shout out to Christopher! I’ve been giving songs away for the last nine months and he gave me $900 for nine songs. Pretty crazy, right?

New artists you’re checking for like Bryson Tiller, Torey Lanez?

I’m listening to Destiny Ryan, who was just on stage with me tonight. I think the names that you mentioned have more than enough exposure, so for me it’s about exposing that next wave of talent. I think her talent speaks for itself. She came out and really ripped her performance tonight and I’m looking forward to seeing how the world responds to her.

Any artists you would like to work with that you haven’t yet?

I wanted to work with Prince, but he gated out on me before I got the chance to get in the studio with him! You know, I have a very short list of legends I wish I could get in the studio with. I believe two of my last living legends would be Bootsy Collins and Stevie Wonder. Bootsy on bass, you know is incredible, and Stevie for sure. I performed for Stevie once at an ESPN party and that was crazy. He was sitting at the table with his family. But yeah, that would be just amazing. I mean, I would consider him one of my teachers.

Fashion?

Japanese styling, you know what I mean? Tonight is pretty simple: I still got the timbs going, Top Man you know, I like to keep it simple with the basics. But you know, it’s all about the silhouette. You’d never think this is a size small, because it’s intentionally oversized. Yeah, it’s pretty fresh.

Rihanna’s “Work”, I can tell that’s your favorite song, isn’t it?

Well, actually, you know it’s a couple of things…one of my former right hand guys was shooting a lot of my content for like 5 years, and Rihanna’s team called and said: “Hey, we love your content. Do you have another guy like the guy who’s shooting yours?”. I didn’t. I knew that was going to be a crazy opportunity for him, and so he’s now actually Rihanna’s personal archivist. So, whenever I get a chance to link up with him, he has just like hours and hours, and hours of footage. He gets excited about records and, he told me that this record was going to be crazy [and showed me footage]. I knew from the moment I saw his edit from behind the scenes, that it was going to be infectious. So, I intentionally don’t listen to it on the radio, because I knew it was going to haunt me everywhere, and then it just so happens to be one of my girls favorite songs. We drive and we travel a lot. We just shot a video in Port Antonio together so that was basically the soundtrack for the past however long that song has been out. Whenever we get in the car, that’s the first one in the playlists.

Would you like to work with Rihanna?

Yeah, I would love to. It’s crazy, I mean Riri and Cassie both came out almost at identical times. She had “Pon De Replay” and Cassie had “Me and You.” It’s just pretty insane the body of work that Rihanna’s put together. I think she drops a new album every nine months. She has an incredible team around her. Great creative; I love her style vocabulary. I love the collaborations she’s done. I remember watching when she first got together with Freda Gianni. When Freda first came on at Gucci and they did the tattoo heart collection for whatever cause she was working on. I really like that movement. I see what she’s doing with Puma. You know, man, I just like the whole movement.

Are you and Cassie maybe getting back in the studio anytime soon?

I haven’t really spoken to her in probably like years now. Definitely been following her career, so I’ve been watching. I saw she just came out with a film with Terrence J, so I think that’s an indicator that she’s moving into Hollywood and major motion pictures. I wish nothing but the best to her and her family. I got to know her family pretty well. But I’m always extremely accessible so should anyone want to work with me my number is public. I think ya’ll might have posted it before, but that number that’s on my Twitter and Instagram? That is my direct cell: 646-887-6978, SuperPhone.

Photo Credit: Joe Chea

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