A Rising Icon

Few can say they have graduated from Harvard Law School, but to matriculate from the Ivy League college within two years by the age of 18 and consequently become one of the music industry’s premiere producers is a rare achievement.

R&B singer/producer Ryan Leslie will be rocking the stage at Carnesecca Arena this Friday as the headlining act for St. John’s annual Spring Fling Concert. Although many students have expressed disappointment with this year’s line-up (especially after hearing rumors that Kid Cudi and Wale were potential performers), the talent this man possesses may be underestimated.

After graduating Harvard in 1998 with a major in government, Leslie pursued his lifelong dream to become a musician. According to the timeline biography on his official web site, he was signed as a producer by Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Gwen Niles.

Since the start of his career, Leslie has toured Germany and released mixtapes such as Just Right. He has been featured in New York magazine and Men’s Health magazine for his musical achievements as both a producer and manager. He began to receive more recognition in the U.S. after signing Casandra Ventura, widely known as Cassie, to his record label, NextSelection.

Leslie has also produced beats for some of music’s most popular acts across genres, including JoJo, Britney Spears and Danity Kane. Most recently, he has worked with Fabolous, Rick Ross, Chris Brown and Jim Jones, with upcoming collaborations from Ne-Yo and Keri Hilson.

It wasn’t until Leslie began posting videos of his recording sessions in the studio that audiences began to take notice of his talent, including management from his record label. By racing his fingers across a piano to banging on bongo drums and even strumming a harp, Leslie has the ability to create infectious beats all on his own, using a wide range of instruments. Mix that with his smooth voice and Leslie can be deemed a one-man R&B band.

Leslie’s YouTube videos have collectively broken the 14 million viewers mark, allowing his vision of becoming a producer-turned-artist possible. Many have even seen inside his Harlem home which he has revamped into a personal studio. Leslie has also been known for placing his speakers outside of his window so that those passing by can take a listen.

In 2009, Leslie released his self-titled debut album, which featured hits such as “Addiction,” “How It Was Supposed To Be” and his first single, “Diamond Girl.” He cemented his role as an artist by releasing his sophomore follow-up, Transition. Leslie plans to re-release another version of the album later this year, filled with new music.

2010 continues to be a promising year for Leslie as he has paired up with Lexus and Adidas to be featured in their advertisements. But his focus remains on his musical career and extending his reach as an artist to the entire world. In a statement on his web site, Leslie advises those who want to follow in his footsteps to channel their creativity.

“I urge you to create as often as possible and use the channels that you have on-line to distribute your art,” Leslie said.
“Take it from a guy who’s living proof that this strategy works.”

After watching him perform live twice at the infamous S.O.B.’s and the Nokia Theatre in Times Square, I encourage everyone to attend the Spring Fling Concert to witness raw talent in the flesh.