Ryan Leslie is a smooth operator. The rap/hip-hop artist's rhymes melt like butter on toast — actually, given Leslie's penchant for upscale video shoots in Paris and other exotic locales ("People ask me my address and I say global," he raps on "Swiss Francs"), make that butter on a baguette. But whatever he's eating, music comes first. A boy genius who graduated from Harvard at 19 and delivered the prestigious Harvard Oration despite having landed on academic probation three times when beat-making got in the way of studies, Leslie always knew his calling. Yet he's clearly not as comfortable as he lets on, frequently singing of "being underrated" and demanding glory: "I love my story / No matter what it takes / Gonna get my glory." It's standard to brag in rap, but Leslie ups the ante with deft namedropping: cars (Ferrari Dino, Lamborghini, Pantera, Mercedes Gull Wing); clothes (Gucci, Chanel, Versace), and cash (Swiss francs, dollars — "grands" — euros). "That's how I know I'm a professional / Six Os on the left side of the decimal . . . That's a million." So what does Leslie have to fret about? Underrated or not, Leslie's doing music for a living, and he's doing just fine.
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