Posted by Bossip Staff
Diddy’s ivy league protege’, Ryan Leslie, has journeyed from Harvard to artistry almost seamlessly:
Bossip: So, tell me how you went from Harvard to the music industry.
Ryan Leslie: My parents are immigrants from the Caribbean Islands. My mother whom is Dutch, Chinese and African descent would meet my father who was born in Barbados and raised in Trinidad, and connect based on their love for music. Music is something that comes from my parents, but also from my parents comes a strong sense of education. Being, immigrants, they wanted to make sure that my sister and I had a fair shot at achieving the American dream, which would be to live our passions. They knew that education was an essential building block in the foundation of that pursuit. I was a precocious youngster, and was getting into a lot of trouble in school. Finally one of my teachers suggested that I go for testing. I tested into the talented, gifted program. Initially I wanted to be a doctor because I wanted my parents to be proud of me. As a kid (15) I tested out of high school. I applied to Harvard, Stanford and Yale. With great pride and honor my parents shipped me off as a teenager to Harvard.
Bossip: You were a pre-med major? When did you decide to do music?
Ryan Leslie: During that time I was introduced to the music of Stevie Wonder and was resolved to chase the contribution and the legacy. I called my father and said that I’ve found my calling in life and I’m switching majors, I’m no longer pre-med. I’m going to go to a humanities major which would allow me more time to focus on music. There was a studio in the basement of my dorm, and I taught myself to produce records. Four years later with three academic probation slaps on the wrist, I did graduate on time.
Bossip: When did you hook up with Diddy?
Ryan Leslie: Fast forward to 2003, after many thwarted attempts, and producing for independent acts, I started interning for a producer who introduced my music to Diddy. Diddy signed me on the spot after a chance meeting and hearing a record I produced for New Edition called “Hot Tonight”. All at once in 2003, my life changed. I was looking at six figure checks and was able to repay my father who invested some credit in my career. From 2003 to 2005, I was under the mentorship of Diddy. After a very fruitful relationship two year management with him, I signed my first artist to the Next Selection Imprint. Her name is Cassie. I wrote and produced our very first single, Me and You went on to write and produce her entire first album.
Bossip: Tell us about your album, Ryan Leslie.
Ryan Leslie: My cd is about six years in the making. After many delays, we’ve been able to come to an agreement. This album is a snapshot of my life. It’s self titled for the simple fact that if you know the name of album, you know the name of the singer, producer and background singer. When I would read the credits in the albums of people like Prince, James Brown and Stevie Wonder, I would see that it was written, arranged and produced by the artist. I wanted to make that type of contribution.
Bossip: What’s your genre?
Ryan Leslie: I find it challenging to categorize myself because I just do the music that I love, the music that inspires me. I wouldn’t personally categorize my music in any specific genre.
Click here to see a few African Americans highlights at Harvard today.
Check out Ryan’s latest video How It Was Supposed To Be.