Something To Prove
Island Def Jam Records
Atlantic City. Baltimore. The images associated with these two small east-coast cities are as diverse as the people who live there. Atlantic City offers up everything from million dollar pleasure palaces to two-bit mobsters and hookers on the stroll; Where the glow from glitzy casinos can't reach, farther away from the boardwalk than you'd ever want to be, lies some of the meanest streets in all of the United States of America. The crime rate in this little "city" by the sea is roughly three times the US average, with a murder rate at twice the national average. It is also the birthplace of Def Jam's rapping prodigy, 15 year-old Young Leek.
Born and raised in the back streets of A.C., young Talik Baker – Young Leek – had his fair share of trouble. He claims it was "aiight, you know, chillin' with my crew and whatever, havin' a good time," but his right-hand man, advisor and father claimed it wasn't as innocent. "He used to fight out there on the boardwalk by the mall, and get into all kinds of stuff." So, the question is, how did he manage to keep himself out of trouble long enough to cultivate his artistic talent?
Baltimore is both a bustling tourist destination and a tough, often violent city whose drug trade inspired HBO's The Wire. It's also the place Leek's father calls home, and though not without its negatives, the move turned out to be a great career move for the kid. "Baltimore's got a different kind of people, a different style of music. It's more club, more dancing. I had never heard the kind of music before." Young Leek quickly adapted, used his talent and artistic intuitiveness and came up with "Jiggle It," a hit record so infectious that it's now considered THE Baltimore hip-hop club anthem. It's a fun, shake-your-ass track that percolates up and down with Leek's sharp, straight-shooting lyrics. "Girls go crazy for the song. One time they tried to pull me off stage!" Soon came the phone call from the principal at Young Leek's high school. "One day I got this call from the principal of his school, says Leek's dad. "He said I had to take Leek out of school, or get him security, because he couldn't walk down the hallways anymore." Young Leek, far away from his Atlantic City troubles, took negatives and spun them into positives.
You can hear that positivity, as well as skills that belie his age - a nimble flow and air tight rhymes - on Young Leek's dynamic Def Jam debut Something To Prove; a title chosen, Young Leek explains, "Because I want to show my versatility and that I can do anything."
Tailor made for summer jams, and parties Something To Prove reminds you that hip-hop can still hold it down for being young, being fly and having fun. With self-penned material that comes straight from his soul, heart and life, Young Leek's steez is infectious. Invigorating. Sexy but never suggestive. Rugged enough for the fellas but with enough romance to keep the ladies satisfied; like the way Leek's role model (and now label mate) LL Cool J used to do back in the day. Mention that comparison and Leek is clearly humbled. "I'm blessed to be on the same label because LL set the foundation for a lot of young rappers, says Leek. "At first, it didn't really sink in, but then I was like … 'I got signed to Def Jam!'"
Young Leek kicks off Something To Prove with the matter-of-fact intro to the sizzling first single "Jiggle It": "Young Leek…Def Jam…Next Level…Let's GO!" From there, it's easy to hear what got discerning heads so hyped. Percolating, and radio ready, "Jiggle It", says Young Leek," is a hot record and it talks about things that people and especially teenagers can definitely relate to. It's fun"
The fun continues on Young Leek's second joint, the up-tempo "Single and Free". Produced by Notz, "Single and Free" is built on a sample of the 70's classic "Want Ads", and celebrates the joys of being your own man. Equally frisky is "I'm Back", a beat driven battle of the sexes, which vibrates with a sassy vibe. Another track sure to attract attention is "Get With Me", featuring the red-hot Ne-Yo and "definitely aimed at the girls".
Family takes center stage on "Hey Mama" dedicated to Young Leek's mom while "Let Me Know", featuring Ray-J and produced by hit maker Rodney Jerkins (Destiny's Child, Brandy) is a funky lesson in just how to holla at that special female. Collaborating with Jerkins brought things full circle for Young Leek because it was a meeting with Rodney back in 2000 that changed the course of Leek's life. That history made "Let Me Know" even sweeter. "Working with Rodney was very cool because he was an influence. He remembered me."
In many ways Young Leek is a typical teen. A Gemini, Leek loves "106 and Park", amusement parks, video games and rocking some fresh BAPE gear. His favorite subject is geography and he roots for the Philadelphia Eagles. He's all about Jay –Z, Biggie, Tupac, LL Cool J and loves Beyonce, Mariah and Janet. Typical teenage stuff but there's more to Young Leek's story than meets the eye.
The middle child of three siblings Leek was raised primarily by his mother and frequently saw his father, who sang as a hobby and managed some local acts. As a kid Leek witnessed the realities of life in urban America up close, yet despite the temptations that beckoned outside the door, Leek's parents made sure he kept focused. Credit sports and music. Leek listened to hip-hop but as much as Leek loved it, he loved football even more and was hoping to make sports his life.
Like other kids in AC Leek knew the rags to riches saga of local hero, producer Rodney Jerkins and as fate would have it, Leek's grandmother and Jerkins' sister were friends and in 2000 she invited the 10 year old to visit her brother in his studio "I knew who Rodney was," Leek recalls, "he's from my area. I respected and admired him and what he'd done. It was the first time that I had ever been in a recording studio or even seen one, so I observed everything that Rodney did and that's when I decided that I wanted to do music. Meeting Rodney sparked me."
Leek continued making good grades, playing football and trying his hand at rapping. "It was just teenage stuff, rapping with my friend at lunchtime. I was just doing music very causally. I'd go to my friend's houses and we lay down these little songs on their parent's home equipment. Real basic stuff. I was in a few talent shows. I learned how to play the drums. Nothing major"
All of that changed at 14 when Leek injured himself playing ball. Realizing that a pro career was probably out of question, Leek put all of his energies into music.
In 2005 Leek decided to join his dad, who was now living in Baltimore. "I told my father that I wanted to get more serious with music. He wanted me to focus on school and get my life together but he saw how much music meant to me and decided to give me a chance." That chance took the form of a battle between Leek and a cousin. Leek's dad was impressed, and decided to let his son go for his dreams.
Through his father's contacts Leek met K SWISS (who now co manages Leek) and together they cooked up an early version of "Jiggle It". The song started popping off in night clubs throughout Charm City and in early 2006 Leek's dad gave the production company Stay Gettin' Entertainment, permission to play "Jiggle It" for Plain Pat; Kanye West's A&R man at Def Jam. Pat liked what he heard and came down to a packed club to see the teenager do his thing on stage. Pat then played Leek's demo for Aaron Reid, son of Def Jam's CEO LA Reid, who then played it for his dad. LA Reid loved what he heard and summoned Young Leek up to Def Jam's NYC offices, where they showcased and signed him in a matter of days.
In less than 6 months Young Leek had gone from teenager with a dream to teenager with a deal. "It was a shock, because most 15 years olds don't get the opportunity to do this or get a record deal as fast as I have."
Young Leek now gets home tutoring in between time spent in the studio and on the road. What is it like, juggling a budding music career with trying to pass 10th grade? "It's hard. It's pretty frustrating. But I'm doing my work, and by this time next year, I'll actually be able to graduate from high school." So fast? Zipping through his teenage years makes you wonder, what about being a kid? "We still take him out, do fun things, you know," his father says, "but he's not like other 15 year-olds. He's a little ahead of his time." And Young Leek doesn't seem to mind. "I like to joke around, go to the movies, blah blah blah, all that stuff, but then I like to party. Put it like this: day time I'm a kid, but at night it's a different story."
Now with an album under his belt what are Young Leek's goals? Think longevity, creativity and maintaining a down to earth point of view. "I'm looking forward to being successful and to grow as an artist. To establish my own business and production company. I just want to have fun. I make good music. I'm easy to get along with. I'm funny, I'm smart. I'm a nice guy. I've made something of myself and come from a place where sometimes that's hard to do. My family is really proud of me and I want to make them happy and make myself happy. That's the most important thing."
Luc Besson has loved the Valerian story for many, many years.
Luc Besson has loved the Valerian story for many, many years.