Ryan Leslie Directs Political Short for Congressional Candidate Taj Clayton

The gifted performer lends his creative vision and support to his Harvard classmate's political aspirations

Was this your first time directing?

No. My album, Les Is More, which drops on June 5th, is a visual album. I’ve already released four videos, all of which were directed and edited by me. And obviously the music was written and produced by me. This is just something that I don’t know where it came from, but it’s a passion of mine. I discovered it and with any pursuit of mine, I’ve pursued it vigorously. In addition to that it allows me to provide opportunities to other young people. Nearly everyone who shot all the videos have been self-taught, motivated young people who love filmmaking. We’ve really made an amazing team. I hope this is going to be a foreshadowing of what’s to come in the future.

I run a creative agency called the NextSelection Lifestyle Group and we’ve collaborated with brands like Lexus and Adidas and it’s the first time we’ve made a foray into public service so to speak. I had an amazing time doing it. Obviously it’s for a friend, someone with whom I have a very rich history, but I really enjoy filmmaking.

Let’s talk about the album. How does it sonically differ from your first two projects?

It’s a lot more aggressive. It’s a rap album. My first two albums were smack dab BET Best New Artist or Best R&B Artist or translated into Grammy-nominated in the R&B category. This was really a departure from that, and there were some themes and topics that I wanted to discuss. So that’s why I named it Les is More because I think it’s really going to raise some eyebrows. In addition to raising some eyebrows musically and thematically, I’ve taken on the responsibility of directing and editing all of the videos that are a part of the album and the artistic offering as well. It’s very ambitious. I think that it’s my responsibility as an artist who has had an opportunity to work with some of the legends of the music industry to take some of what I have learned and what I have been able to pick up from these greats, and apply it to my own artistry. It’s a very ambitious offering and we’ll support it with a tour in the fall. We’ll be visiting countries I’ve never performed in before. When I say, “Les is more,” it’s exactly what I mean.

What other projects do you have going on?

When you think about being a one-man shop—writing, producing, directing, performing, launching a merchandise business, collaborations, consultations, I have more than enough to fill up my plate. I still love producing as well as collaborating. I just did a record with Young Jeezy. Everything aligns with my touring life. I did a record with Jeezy because I’m co-headlining a show with him in Cologne, Germany on the 27th of April. I’m very focused on making the best effort I possibly can to create an amazing business model that can be eventually be scalable for the independent artist that’s truly self contained.

Watch Taj Clayton’s Leslie-directed campaign short, “Running For You” below:

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  • Cipan

    My daughter’s pre/grade soohcl consistently has one bike locked up out front. One. On Wednesday I picked her up (by bike, of course) and the line of cars was long and sick. Why? It’s on a hill.On Monday as I crested the hill carrying both girls on the X, a guy asked me with utter disbelief if I just rode up the hill. I admit I find it very disheartening to experience the average person’s inability to see themselves engaging in such behavior.