Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ryan Leslie the Return of Genius and True Swagger

Ryan Leslie - Producer, Singer, Artist, Rapper and CEO

Ryan Leslie is ushering in the return of the virtuoso for the recording industry. Producer, writer, singer, rapper and documented genius (having scored a perfect 1600 on the SAT and graduating Harvard at 19) Leslie's momentum is building quickly.

He successfully blends live instrumentation and sound capture into contemporary hot tracks blended with cool and
CEO of Lifestyle and record label Next Selection, Inc., Ryan Leslie has created a star following on YouTube with one of the top subscribed channels for viewers by documenting his unique creative process for production. He's produced hits for Cassie, Britney Spears and Beyonce but now is emerging with his own album schedule for release in August of '08.

Uniquely, Leslie has taken the rumored jolt from his former love interest Cassie and her alleged relationship with Sean "Diddy" Combs and channeled it into his music. "Diamond Girl" his latest single climbing the charts was an ode to Cassie that has taken a life of it's own as he's moved on. On his track I-R-I-N-A he turns an icebreaker melody that he freestyled to his non-english speaking Russian Model co-star of Diamond Girl and flipped it into a first class ballad that is radio worthy.

Most impressive about Leslie is the unabashed and proud return of true genius. A child prodigy that aced his SATs and entered Harvard at 15, graduated at 19, for me he's a refreshing contrast from Kanye West's approach of boasting "College Dropout". While the comparison ahead for Leslie and West is yet to peak, refreshingly on the music scene there is enough room for both in the spectrum of hybrid producer/artists that are joining the ranks of albums and latest signed artists.

Kanye West and Ryan Leslie in the Lab
College Dropout & College Graduate Collaborate on a Cassie Track

MTV's Buzzworthy recently featured a segment on Ryan Leslie where he provides background on his production of "Diamond Girl".

Leslie comes equipped with the aesthetics of today's recording artists, swag, style, spitting fire lyrics on dope beats. But beneath the trappings of what has defined successful artist is unadulterated genius, drive, inspiration and great music.

For more information on Ryan Leslie visit, Subscribe to his YouTube channel by clicking here:

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference 2008 - Superior Content and Growth in 13 Years

BE Conference Workshop on Technology in Business Siddiq Bello (left)

I recently attended the Black Enterprise (BE)magazine entrepreneurs conference in Charlotte, NC. In a way it was a homecoming for me and in another it was a brand new experience.

Marquis at the Charlotte Convention Center

Uniquely, I started my career in Charlotte right after college with the fledgling regional bank NationsBank that has now grown through serial acquisitions to what is now known as Bank of America.
My first big promotion was to Vice President and being named the National Director of Strategic Initiatives for an affinity banking unit called the Professional African American Banking Group (PAABG).

I managed over a million sponsorship budget developing relationships with organizations and events that would yield high wealth African American private and commercial banking clients. The BE Entrepreneur's Conference was a title sponsorship I managed and I also negotiated the last three year deal as they departed from Orlando to Nashville as the host city for the conference. Needless to say as a title sponsor I enjoyed first class VIP treatment from the BE staff and team in my former role.

Charlotte, NC Skyline

I was a corporate exec for 13 years before becoming an entrepreneur.
I've attended at least 5 of the last 13 conferences and this year meant more to me than ever before because I attended as a Black Entrepreneur. I was raised with BE on my coffee table, learning about business and the African American leaders that looked like me and my family and was inspired. To finally attend as an entrepreneur in the town where I began my career meant a great deal.

An Entrepreneurial Dinner from Fuel Pizza in Charlotte

Beyond my professional ties to the event the conference in Charlotte was well done. As a host City Charlotte fits very well for the format the event has evolved into. BE always boasts superior workshop and keynote speaker content.

Keynote sit down with Chris Gardner from "Pursuit of Happyness"

A highlight for me among the keynote was the sit down discussion with Christopher Gardner, subject of the feature film "The Pursuit of Happyness" starring Will Smith (for more info go to

Cool Chris Gardener with no socks on.

He shared parts of his story and journey with a familiar cool that endeared you to his genius. I have several good friends that have taken the NASD Series 7 and it is the securities equivalent of the bar and should be revered as such. Great dialogue while learning he wanted to be Miles Davis when he was younger and was wisely informed that only Miles could be Miles.

Another highlight of the conference was the taping of an episode of BE's television show "Our World with Black Enterprise". The taping was prefaced by BE's publisher and patriarch Earl Graves, Sr. and a brief reference to the Eddie Griffin debacle at the Golf & Tennis challenge that fostered the topic of the panel discussion "Enough is Enough".

Our World with Black Enterprise Taping: Studio Audience

Panelists included CNN Correspondent Roland Martin (fellow Alpha man), Al Sharpton leader of the National Action Network (and survivor of Lil Wayne's scrutiny on C3), Kim Rosario Executive Director of, Nancy Giles Social Commentator for CBS Morning news and and Chuck D Raptivist and leader of pioneering group Public Enemy.

Panelists Al Sharpton, Kim Rosario, Earl Graves, Roland Martin, Ed Gordon and Nancy Giles

In his distinct revolutionary manner, Chuck D opened his remarks by saying he was sorry "Uncle Bob Johnson wouldn't be attending." His comment was received with a pervasive ooh as Chuck clarified that it was open for interpretation. Over the course of the taping the panelists debated who is accountable and focus turned turned on Kim Rosario from
Moderator and host Ed Gordon took Kim Rosario to task on BET's impact on impressionable young African Americans.

Al Sharpton making a point as Kim Rosario from looks on.

The exchange between the two peaked when Kim became defensive clarifying her responsibility was to the online space at and someone else should be there to defend the overall programming. The colorful exchange was instigated a bit by the live audience's responses but Ed Gordon did his best to diffuse audience reaction to get back to the issues at hand.
I grew weary of the references to today's youth with their pants hanging down as we were all in suits at a privileged event at BE and felt like I was in a Bill Cosby clinic condemning the generation collectively.

CNN Correspondent and Media Contributor Roland Martin laying it down.

After all I own a business that specializes in connecting companies with the urban consumer. I was compelled to get in line for Q&A and submitted the last question to Chuck D asking how we close the Chasm between the generations so we can get the pant sagging youth that have entrepreneurial ambitions to the conference. I made the final edits for broadcast so look for the replay on TVOne.

Chuck D, Raptivist and leader of Public Enemy with Edward Cates, CEO of Nuance Marketing

Putting the history of the event into context to this year's conference it's clear that BE is looking to appeal to the younger generation of entrepreneurs in it's programming content. Conversely there is a sense that Black Entrepreneurs must look and dress a certain way. In my opinion, I'd rather have the pants saggin' backpack entrepreneur poorly dressed for the BE conference to grow and get content then not at all.
In today's business world there are plenty of "urban" young entrepreneurs that could make the BE 100 listing and are wearing baggy jeans, sneakers and a 59/50 hat everyday as they lead their company.

Coming back to BE was refreshing, educational and sentimental. I left the conference ready to grow my business in ways I never imagined and built some strong networking connections that will be long lasting.
For more information on Black Enterprise please visit

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