Ryan Leslie-Carnival of Venice (Video)

Despite my appreciation of his past works, I’ve distanced myself from R-Les’ recent efforts as his new penchant for rapping seems a waste of his singing talents. Nonetheless, there’s only so long I can sulk.

The lyricism is as ‘bragger rap’ as you’d expect from a relatively mainstream act, but with a better twist as he often focuses on his half-decent intentions for his wealth, whilst also having progression in moving through his day to his evening. It’s not going to lyrically blow anyone’s mind, but is change from the usual fare, and comes packed into an intense flow with a monotony that enhances the beat’s impact. !llmind serves up an excellent backdrop here, arguably the track’s highlight, with dark, moody synths blending with raw, scratchy production and ominous vocal sampling for a beat that will be the envy of many, and would certainly afford more praise had it been given to a more established MC.

The visual has a nice pacing to it, slow with quick scene changes that match up well to the movements of the audio, and does well in tandem with the music. It’s hard to hate this; credit to R-Les for delivering quality in a different lane to his usual style.

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LA Leakers-The 2013 Draft Picks (Mixtape)

la leakers
Sourmilk and Justin Credible (props to those who associate that name with the old wrestler) have built up quite the name for themselves over the last couple of years as the LA Leakers, and their status as pre-eminent West Coast DJs is verified with this collection of unreleased tracks and remixes from some huge names.

Ryan Leslie, Wale, Pac Div, A$AP Rocky and Problem are amongst the established names contributing, whilst Ryan McDermott, Audio Push and Trinidad James are part of the very talented and/or popular upcomers featured here. For the mainstream and middle-ground hip-hop heads, there’s no reason you wouldn’t be grabbing this and I’ll delay you no further-head below for the free stream and grab.

LA Leakers-The 2013 Draft Picks

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Fabolous-Life Is So Exciting ft. Pusha T (Video), and Remix ft. Ryan Leslie

A double whammy for you from Fabolous, with the official visuals being released mere hours after R-Les came through with his contribution to the track from Fab’s Soul Tape 2, which you can grab for free over here.

Big fan of the production, with the soul vocal sample complementing the thudding percussion and uplifting synth work well, the combination giving the beat a roundedness that makes this a great contender for a single. The style of production is a great fit for both artists, with Loso’s laidback delivery riding along smoothly on this, before Pusha’s more aggressive style offers a nice contrast to the former’s flows. The lyricism of both is focused around both their lavish lives and inherent ‘street ways’, facets which are both represented in the audio: luxurious vehicles, art collections and such sit alongside the less glamorous graffitied walls, though there’s clearly more emphasis on the richer elements of their lives throughout. It’s not a clip breaking any new ground, but it fits the audio well enough and that’s about all you can ask for from this sort of track.

Ryan Leslie’s focus on his rap work continues here with a verse tacked onto the front of this. A solid remix with a couple of OK lines, and whilst not hugely notable it’s a listenable nonetheless: Check that one out here.

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Ryan Leslie - Dress You To Undress You

Another R&B/Hip-Hop track for your eyes and ears. Big fan of Ryan Leslie’s production skills, and he really does know how to flow to songs, as he raps and sings effortlessly to this song. Very slick.

Dress You To Undress You is the fifth in a series of 10 videos that make up his ‘visual’ album, Les is More, which is in stores next month. A real likeable and feel-good track, that’ll be getting a lot of time in my playlists over the next few weeks.

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Talib Kweli-Attack the Block (Mixtape)

Can’t complain about a little unexpected Talib Kweli, especially when its a huge 18-track project boasting some massive features.

Twitter seems to be surprised about one feature in particular, that being the Lil’ Wayne (and Mack Maine) assist, which isn’t actually that big a shock given Kweli’s very public praise for Weezy. There are much more notable features on here, including Ab-Soul, Ryan Leslie, Black Thought and Mac Miller. Of course, Talib’s hardly a slouch with a mic and I’m sure he’ll further his status as one of the better rappers around with this tape.

Talib Kweli-Attack the Block

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Ryan Leslie-Beautiful Lie Remix ft. Fabolous

It’s been a very long time since we’ve heard from R-Les, and he’s back on the scene with his frequent collaborator Fabolous for a remix (of a song I don’t recall in the slightest).

Those classic Ryan Leslie trademarks are all over this beat, from the slick percussion to the addictive work on the keys, and whilst it’s not quite one of his best beats it’s refreshing to here this style return to us. More expected elements are in place, with a clever opening verse from Loso and a catchy hook from R-Les, though the latter’s decision to rap his verse is admittedly a little disappointing: he’s a man of many, many talents but he doesn’t need to head down the rapping route as most singers seem to be. Still, Leslie’s back and that’s enough for most.

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LeBronJames.com Presents: The Campaign Mixtape

Presented by LeBron’s official website, and though I’m not sure what association he has with this mixtape otherwise, it’s apparently “the official playoff mixtape”.

Usually, I’d brush this off as a pointless gimmick but the tape features brand new material from some real hip-hop and R&B luminaries, including Ryan Leslie, Fabolous and Maino, as well as a few talented upcomers such as Nitty Scott, MC and Freddie Gibbs. Coming in at 14 tracks it should be a nice, concise listen and you can grab it for free over at LeBron’s place below.

LeBronJames.com Presents: The Campaign Mixtape

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Sh*t You Forgot About: Episode 1

We’ve seen many weekly series come and go here at OTU, but it’s been a while since we’ve launched a new one, which frankly isn’t in keeping with our ‘we do things differently’ mantra.

That would be the marketing spin on this. The truth is, the thought occurred to me that as modern-day music listeners, we consume so much music on a daily and weekly basis that there have become two clear pools of choice when picking something to listen to: either a classic, old-school track or something relatively new. “What’s wrong with that?”, I hear you cry. “The vast middle in between those two”, I reply.

There are countless songs that lie in that grey area of being a little old, but nowhere near aged enough to be considered ‘classic’, and often they get overlooked. Several tracks may have been ‘ahead of their time’, and you’ll find them an almost brand new listen in today’s climate, or it may simply be revisiting an excellent track to recrete that ‘first time’ feel once again. Welcome to your friendly reminder of tracks we may have once loved (or even completely ignored), and enjoy the fresh yet familiar feeling that accompanies each one.

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R&B Fridays: Episode 134

Yes kids, it’s not Friday, but every day is a good day to get a fix of some good R&B right? RIGHT!

I’ve also assembled here a quite perfect trifecta of tracks for your listening pleasure; none of that sweet baby music making here in this episode, just three tracks that will get you moving. Click on below to see what is in store for you this (or last, should I say?) week.

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Red Cafe, Rick Ross and Ryan Leslie-Fly Together

Take a moment and think about Red Cafe’s situation: he’s simulataneously signed to both Diddy and Akon’s respective labels, he had a massively popular single in early ’09 with Hottest In The Hood, and frequently collaborates with huge artists. Surely he has to be regarded as one of the biggest underperformers around?

One criticism that you can’t level at him is poor beat selection, and here he picks a superb R-Les production that relies largely on addictive bass plucks creating a thick and distinctive melody, whilst the tempo suits both Cafe and Ross very nicely. Lyrically, it’s relatively typical mainstream stuff, and arguably Cafe mimics Ross’ own rapping style a little too much, but it’s an easy listen with R-Les’ memorable hook and outro being notable. A decent enough standard, and one that’s accessible to a wide audience, but more can be expected with his credentials.

Red Cafe-Fly Together ft. Rick Ross and Ryan Leslie

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Ryan Leslie-Glory Video

Expected to be on his upcoming Les Is More album, this is both a change of direction for Ryan and also one of his more personal tracks to date.

Usually, I’m not a fan of singers trying to rap, but here R-Les proves the rare exception with an immensely introspective and honest lyrical performance, addressing topics from his perennial status as ‘underrated’ to his personal life. There’s no particularly intricate wordplay or metaphors, but the simple lyricism works very well in tandem with Leslie’s empassioned delivery. The edgy and progressive production works to emphasise that raw, honest vibe with spiky guitars and crashing drums closing the track out in an energetic and memorable fashion.

Very solid track, and I’m very surprised at how likeable this track is for a ‘non-rapper’. Video is made up of live and ‘candid’ footage which doesn’t break any boundaries, but fits the feel of the song nicely.

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Fabolous, Ne-Yo and Ryan Leslie-Look At Her (Killin’ Em Part 2)

From Fabolous’ upcoming mixtape The Soul Tape, Loso lets loose of the lead single. You Be Killin’ Em was quite the smash for Fab, and despite being ‘part 2′, this has a markedly different style and vibe to its predecessor. The beat is far less bouncy, but has a thicker, more punchy hip-hop style that probably makes it more versatile in so far as being able to enjoy it outside of a club environment.

Ne-Yo comes through with a very empassioned delivery on the hook, though that emotion bleeds into the structure a little bit and makes the hook a little difficult to actually distinguish at times. Solid work from Loso as usual, and a decent if unspectacular contribution from R-Les. Not as good as the original for me, but maybe one that’ll be easier to listen to at home/on the headphones.

Fabolous-Look At Her (Killin’ Em pt. 2) ft. Ne-Yo and Ryan Leslie

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R&B Fridays: Episode 92

A pretty short episode this week, but with good reason. Recently, it’s become a bit annoying (for me, probably not for many of you) that most episodes are comprised primarily of pop music, and not R&B. This week, I wanted to avoid that, and hence I can say I’m genuinely a fan of this week’s episode, which I’ve not been able to say for a while.

Couple of big singles this week, including the first single from Ryan Leslie’s upcoming third abum Les Is More. Only really the two relevant posts from the week gone by, with the superb Jhene Aiko releasing her new album/mixtape for free, and Odd Future’s Frank Ocean dropping off a great piece of R&B with Dave Raps. Be sure to check both out, as whilst they may not be familiar names, they’re very much worth a look. Click below for the rest of the goods.
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R&B Fridays: Episode 89

Genuine reason on the delay this week: I wasn’t happy with the amount of good quality material as of yesterday afternoon, but the R&B/pop world has delivered in the last 24 hours or so to make sure that situation has improved.

Not too much to recap on from the past week, with only the three related items: UK starlet Jodie Connor released her newest single, fellow homegrown upcomer Jaya released a new video featuring two prominent MCs, and Mike Posner let loose of official visuals for his collaboration with Lil’ Wayne.

Click below for this week’s R&B fix.
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Mastered Versions of Previously-Released Tracks

This always seems to be the case. The versions we originally get sound alright, so the audiophiles like myself get all annoyed when we have to (yes, have to!) replace the original with the mastered. Oh well. It does improve all three tracks though, especially the Budden and Banks tracks. Fact about the CRS track: Lupe revealed its a couple of years old.

CRS-Don’t Stop! (original review here)

Joe Budden-Black Cloud (original review here)

Lloyd Banks-Start It Up ft. Swizz Beatz, Kanye West, Fabolous and Ryan Leslie (original review here)

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R&B Fridays: Episode 69

Hopefully, this reaches you on time this week!

New singles from Keri and Rihanna headline this episode, along with plenty of other tracks from a range of talented artists. Before that, the customary recap: a great track from UK newcomer Talay Riley, Drake’s lead track from his upcoming mixtape, plenty of R&B-related artwork, and finally the official video for Keri Hilson’s Breaking Point.

Click on to get involved in this week’s episode.

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Lloyd Banks, Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, Fabolous and Ryan Leslie-Start It Up

Looks like the mega-collabos aren’t just reserved for G.O.O.D. Fridays! Expected to be on Banks’ upcoming album, his resurgence is verified with this huge line-up. Lacing a thick, strong percussion line with some futuristic melodies, the beat is an interesting hybrid of different hip-hop styles that makes for addictive listening.

Good verses throughout, with Ye probably just shading it by virtue of having what seems like a longer verse. R-Les only seems to contribute some backing vocals towards the end, though it does sound like his production. Sadly, the novelty of these all-star tracks is wearing off though, as we’re being hit with them at least once a week, and this one may suffer as a result. Would have been much more special in isolation, as opposed to being just another track with roughly the same group of artists.

Lloyd Banks-Start It Up ft. Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, Fabolous and Ryan Leslie

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Kanye West-Christian Dior Denim Flow ft. KiD CuDi, Pusha T, John Legend, Lloyd Banks & Ryan Leslie

Edit: Kanye has mixed a new version for us now, (the same but with an extended R-Les verse). Grab it here.

Now that is one hell of a long title! There wasn’t going to be a G.O.O.D Friday drop this week because some blogs posted a leaked track from his upcoming album (not us). However Kanye decided not to punish us all, and let us have this weeks track.

First impressions, Kanye’s done it again! Another fantastic track and some great verses supplemented with an awesome Kid Cudi chorus. The quality of all these free tracks he’s giving away is unparalleled in the game right now. This track alone is better than 99% you’d hear on other rappers albums, let alone all the other tracks Kanye’s given away lately.

Great stuff. Grab it by clicking the illustrious red text below.

Kanye West – Christian Dior Denim Flow ft. KiD CuDi, Pusha T, John Legend, Lloyd Banks & Ryan Leslie

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The Game-We On ft. Ryan Leslie [Produced By Swizz Beatz]

This track seems unfinished to me, certainly needs another verse on it (perhaps from Jay Electronica, given the shout-out he gets from Game immediately into the song?).

Quite decent though, although I expect this to be a throwaway track from his upcoming R.E.D. album, an album that seems like it’s never going to come out.

The Game – We On ft. Ryan Leslie [Produced By Swizz Beatz]

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Fabolous & Ryan Leslie in the Studio [Video]

Always great to see artists working in the studio on tracks you particularly love, and I particularly love this track, You Be Killing Em.

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R&B Fridays: Episode 46

Some very good music from new upcomers in this episode, and I expect you’ll definitely find a new artist to latch onto in here. Some stuff from R&B Fridays favourites such as Bruno Mars too of course, and plenty of it with a total of 21 tracks making the final cut for this episode.

Click on for that weekly R&B fix you’ve been begging for. Don’t pretend like you weren’t.

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2 New Remixes to Red Cafe’s I’m Ill

Red’s track is steadily gaining some serious momentum, and these two remixes will certainly help that. The first has Ryan Leslie on the hook, with additions from Claudette Ortiz and Lloyd Banks. The second features hip-hop vetereans The LOX. Both are worth checking out for sure. Love this beat the more I hear it, and I’m not irritated by the Jay-Z sample for a change. Original can be viewed/accquired here.

Red Cafe-I’m Ill Remix ft. Ryan Leslie, Lloyd Banks and Claudette Ortiz

Red Cafe-I’m Ill Remix ft. The LOX (Styles P, Sheek Louch and Jadakiss)

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R&B Fridays (Wednesday): Episode 41 Part 2

So here’s the deal. This is the stuff that I couldn’t fit into the last episode, but as I’ve got so much new material to post today (and I’m feeling lazy/tired), I’m foregoing my usual track-by-track analysis and just posting up the links.

Pick off what you want, and be prepared for an absolute massive R&B Friday this week. Why? Because I have about 150 tracks for it already. Yes, you read that right. Goodbye life.

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R&B Fridays: Episode 41

50 tracks. I had to plough through 50 tracks this week! Expect a part 2 post in the next few days as a result.

The crazy thing is that pretty much all of the tracks are from really big name artists, which makes this episode (and the sequel) pretty stacked at 22 tracks each (5/6 of the tracks were poor, hence a 44 total!).

Lloyd, Keri, Leona, R-Les, and many more are all waiting for you after the click. There’s some real quality in here (especially from Johnta and Lloyd) and this is possibly the best episode ever, so be sure to check this one out whether you’re a new fan or a regular.

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R&B Fridays: Episode 38 Leftovers

As I alluded to on Friday, here are the tracks that I had to cut from that episode. I didn’t want to cut them as a lot of them could have made any other episode, but it was simply a time constraint and the fact that having a 30-40 track episode would have been impossible for you to read.

Click on for 14 more tracks to see you through until Friday.

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R&B Fridays: Episode 38

I had 40 potential tracks this week. 40. That’s a big number. I barely have the time for a regular episode, let alone a 40-deep one, and it’s actually really hard to pick a set out of them. I’ve picked what seemed to be the strongest/potentially most popular 20, and I’ll try to post the rest up in a few days.

Click on for 5 helpings of new Usher, a couple of features from The-Dream and many more huge names.

EDIT:  I uploaded the wrong artwork for the tracks, and they have pictures of The-Dream as the album art. My bad, but I’m not re-uploading everything again. It could be worse :)

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R&B Fridays: Episode 32

A nice blend of mainstream and underground artists this week, and a bit of variety in the artists too with no particular artists having more than one track in this episode.

Click on to get your weekly fill of R&B nutrition. Apologies if some of my analysis is a bit short this week, I’m in a rush! Doing 14 tracks ain’t easy…

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R&B Fridays: Episode 31

Unusual episode this one. I actually had a vast majority of this material with me by the end of Saturday night and could have probably written an entire episode right there. There was a great deal dropped later in the week too, making this episode 19 tracks deep and in terms of quality it’s potentially one of the best yet.

Click below for new/unreleased music from Usher, Ne-Yo, Bruno Mars and many more. As usual, a couple of newer artists in there too. Before you do though, be sure to grab this fantastic Christina Milian track that Indi liberated (and consequentially robbed from this episode!) earlier this week.

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R&B Fridays: Episode 30

This week has seen a number of leaks (potentially) from Usher’s upcoming Raymond vs. Raymond, and it’s those that anchor this week’s episode.

This milestone episode has got a lot of quality, and a lot of new tracks that I’ve really enjoyed this past week from both huge and lesser known names, as well as a surprising number of unreleased tracks, and some from artists of years gone by which will catch some by surprise.

It feels like only yesterday I wrote Episode 1!

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