Ryan Leslie is a musical prodigy that has gone mostly unsung as I’ve pointed out before, pun totally intended. His self-titled debut was blatant bait for mainstream attention which ultimately failed, but still had some the most substantial R&B out at the time. Leslie’s follow up, Transition, went a different direction, substituting lush production and ideals for slick funk and intensely personal lyrics. Now without a label, yet somehow appearing stronger and more confident as an artist, Leslie has released his third album Les Is More which in all honesty, is a mixed bag with more good than bad.
The album begins with the acoustically stunning “Glory,” an intro track that bleeds Leslie’s frustration and hunger through your speakers with a live band instrumental that makes the studio-produced song feel like the beginning of an insane concert set. The song is a great start off as it easily gets you full of emotion and energy. It’s worth noting that Leslie, formerly a singer, makes the effort to rap in a good portion of this album and isn’t bad at it. Next up is “Beautiful Lie” which has some nice synths and lyrics, but is pretty forgettable overall. I actually wondered at first why the song would even be on the album. That was until “Beautiful Lie” ended and seamlessly blended into the follow up track, “Good Girl,” a posh glimpse into the life and love that Ryan Leslie indulges in. The song is soft in tone, but a sleeper favorite.
The next three songs that follow: “5 Minute Freshen Up,” “Dress To Undress You,” “Maybachs & Diamonds” are all nice songs, but the redundant borderline elevator music sound that they have and the industry standard lyrical subject matter can’t hold a candle to the other more thoughtful songs on the album. “Swiss Francs” brandishes a beat I’m sure many rappers wish they could have had, but Leslie rides his composition efficiently enough to make it stand out. Mid-album, Leslie brings the energy back up with the heartfelt “Ups and Down” and seductive “Ready or Not,” but quickly loses steam again with the lackluster “Lovers and Mountains.” “Black Flags” shines based off of the infectious beat and Leslie’s refreshing subject matter. The second to last track on the album is “Joan of Arc,” and it’s a downplayed gem with some solid lyrical construction. The last song on the album is a remix of “Beautiful Lie,” and it’s just flat out boring.
Les is More is a portrait of an artist that after so much time, honestly, still has some growing to do. Leslie shines when he’s at this truest and while he’s not a bad rapper, it’s harshly evident that he’s smarter than the wannabe “swagged out baller” lyrics he’s peddling in some of these songs. The audience only accepts lyrical content like that when it suits the artist, and with Leslie, it most definitely sounds like he’s just trying to fit in. Again, there’s more good than bad on this album, and despite the low points, when Leslie hits that balance between personal and artistic integrity he’s in the music industry’s top tier without a doubt.