#WRITERSBLOCK Ransom FA Talks The Come Up And Regional Rap
Author: Lewis Newman | Sunday 12th April 2020
Yes, people! This week I had the opportunity to speak with Ransom FA, breaking down his experiences and influences during the come up so far. This past week he dropped new single 'Northside', and course many of you will know him from BBC Three’s hit show ‘The Rap Game UK’, in which he established himself as one of the shows most talented, energetic and ultimately memorable performers. Since the show left our screens the work and success hasn’t stopped for the Aberdeen hailing emcee, so let’s get straight into it and learn a little more about the guy making waves on the scene.
So, for a lot of people who watched The Rap Game UK, you will have been their introduction to music coming out up north in Scotland. What was the playing field like before your arrival on the scene?
"In Scotland? Do you know what yeah, Scotland’s actually got a history of people who’ve been involved in rap. Like, there’s a lot of people who’ve been involved that I noticed while growing up, but for me, I’ve always wanted to do it at a level where it’s bigger. Scotland has been alright, there’s been a couple of local acts who did okay but never really got passed the gimmick kind of stage. I was like that’s good, but I want to be an artist where I’m trying to transcend worldwide. Where mandem are like ‘that guy's as good as Skepta, as AJ Tracey’. No disparity if you get what I mean? There weren’t many black guys in Scotland who were embracing that this is where they’re from. They don’t need to put on a London accent or American, it’s like, you either respect it or you don’t but you’re going to get used to it at the end of the day. So that was my main motivation, it wasn’t an easy path because there weren’t many people who role modelled my style or were breaking into the industry trying to do shit. I’d support artists that were big like Skepta and others when they’d come up to tour, and I wanted people to know that I’m in the scene, not just in Scotland but worldwide. That was the mindset that I kind of always had."
Who were you listening to growing up? Who were some of your biggest influences? Here, in the US or whatever?
"That’s a mad one. One of my biggest influences forever would be Lil Wayne. Old School Lil Wayne, I would say pre ‘Carter V’ maybe. When he was dropping mixtapes like ‘No Ceilings’, freestyles, yeah."
Good memories listening to those tracks. And seeing them come up of the London artists as well, was that something you were in touch within Scotland? Was grime something that was reaching you up there?
"Yeah! So apart from Lil Wayne, growing up I loved grime. So many of my favourite artists to this day are grime artists. Griminal, Bruza all these guys I really rated. If I had to choose a list of people, for sure I could. But music for me is emotion and people have changing stories at different times. So, I got into different things throughout different moments in my life. Lil Wayne was one of my favourite artists, but on a general spectrum, I listened to way more UK music. I could relate to it; you know what I mean? Not all the time but it was based on similar things. The weather they experience is the same, they go through the same kind of issues as us. It was just more relatable and I felt this respect. I thought I can model what I want to do based around what they wanna do and if I can interact these two worlds in some kind of way that’s the best way for me to thrive. That’s kind of the mission I went on."
Do your family share your love for rap, are they supportive of and into your music?
"Yeah, you know what it’s love! My brother, he’s a rap head. If it wasn’t for my brother, man… Okay so he’s a couple of years older than me, and this is the age where LimeWire was around, you know LimeWire?"
Of course, catching those viruses you know!
"Yeah bro, you gotta take risks! One time you might catch some deep German porn, but you just had to take the risk! (He laughs). My brother used to download albums upon albums, and I’d just have this love for it. Because being in Scotland people like rap, but not to the extent that I loved it, you know what I mean? There were some other people growing up like there were some other ethnic families and my other G’s who were into it as much as I was. Some mates from school liked it as well, so it is something that’s always been a part of my life. I remember as far back as primary school someone telling me, ‘Ah Ransom I can definitely see you being a rapper!’. I don’t know why that stuck, but of course, they didn’t call me Ransom at the time that wouldn’t be mad! Just my government name…"
Well, it’s obviously a testament to you as well, that people now don’t really see you as ‘the Scottish rapper’, you know what I mean? They’re just fans of your music and overall energy. With that said, what’s the love been like since the show?
"It’s been sick. Especially in Scotland where people are very patriotic, especially in Aberdeen. Because I put Aberdeen on so heavily and say stand free and all that kind of shit, it’s been good and people have been fucking with me. After Rap Game I’d get inundated with a message from kids like, ‘please come perform at my school!’. It was madness with one of these youths, they’re like ‘if I can get 500 likes will you do it?’. This was maybe two days before I was moving to London, so I was like screw it, I gotta make it happen when there’s this much love. So, I showed up at this school and it was shut down. They had to make it so only the senior years could attend and I was getting videos from these kids on snap like ‘I can’t get in, I tried to get in and now I’m in detention!’. Everyone just wanted to see what was going on and people were getting behind it, that’s sick to see. Obviously, it’s funny because when you start you’re putting on gigs and there’s like five people there, but you still have to keep going because it’s what you love. Madness."
How’s the relationship with the other guys from the show been?
"It’s been good! To be honest I see them all, probably Kiico most because he’s only a couple of trains away. So I’ve been keeping up with him and we chill from time to time. Obviously, I’ve been working with FOS on this new show so I’ve been in regular contact with him, and yeah that’s been sick. Since moving to London I’ve been able to just network, I got a new manager and am working with new people. The guy that I’ve worked with on my new project, my producer, we’ve been working on some crazy sounds. He’s an instrumentalist, so me and him will hit the studio and go with a different vibe. In the past, I’ve been able to work on a lot of rap, but I haven’t been able to work on the musical side of things. Maybe I haven’t had the production or worked with people who focus on the use of a lot of different instruments, whereas now I can do that. We can bust out the saxophone, we can do a melody and just work it out, you get what I mean? That’s what I’m trying to do now."
Most definitely, you can find your own style adding whatever instrumentation you want.
"Exactly! It’s like, I love funk and soul. I love a bit of disco and RnB, things that are that kind of vibe and mandem ain't really doing that. My aim is to just bring vibes back. Music is emotion, so one day you’re feeling the funk vibe, another you wanna relax to some rhythm and blues. My aim is to express different emotions in my music."
So, tell us about this show coming up with F.O.S for those who don’t know.
"Yeah, so the show is called ‘Rap Trip’. BBC Three obviously saw us on ‘The Rap Game’ and knew that one of my main points of view was being from a different place. The fact people hadn’t given me the time of day before but I didn’t care and have been trying to let people know what I’m about. They felt that message, and so one of the guys I’d worked with on the show with, me and him started fleshing out some ideas. We thought we’d move around and take a closer look at different rappers around the UK, and he said let’s make it a road trip bringing FOS along. Obviously, I thought that was sick! So the ball started moving, and the next thing BBC had commissioned the series. We’re going to as many places as possible like Ireland, Scotland, rural places in England to find rappers and emcees that don’t usually get a share of the limelight and each episode kind of has a theme. I don’t wanna say too much but looking at a certain type of rapper in a certain city for example. Being on the trip my mind expanded, I wasn’t really aware of how active people are. So yeah it’s this big ‘Rap Trip’, with the added banter of me and FOD driving up and down the whole country."
Of course, and the chemistry between you two was clear on the show as well. Even in the battle phase, bigging up each other’s dubs and showing support. It was never a dangerous vibe.
"Yeah, that’s legit bro. Cos during that clash we were bredrins, we lived in the house together. Obviously, the clash was important, but the whole show wasn’t based on segments like that. So I’m not gonna target him and talk about this or that, or share things that he told me in confidence just to get a one up and a pass you know?"
The show tapped in a trend that has grown so much in recent years, where regional rap has been on the rise. Now it’s less of a London exclusive thing, which is what this music has felt like for many years.
"I agree. Being someone active in the scene since 2010, I’ve seen the extremities of it for sure. I remember I dropped a visual on Link Up in 2013, and they had to disable the likes and comments because people just weren’t ready to accept someone so ‘different’. People weren’t ready at the time, but as time has gone on they’ve become more accepting. Bugzy came through, you know what I mean? Now we got Birmingham, Mist, Aitch. There’s still a way to come with a lot of cities, but people are open to regionality more. For instance, I was on ‘The Rap Game’ but that wouldn’t have happened a few years ago. Now people like Aitch have gotten so big people can see the appeal, but I still do feel there’s a long way to go. We just dropped the video on Link Up and people’s reactions have really changed, but we’re still on the come up. People still need to learn sometimes to take It seriously and understand that all these guys have their own story. Aberdeen or wherever we shoot something. Like in Bradford for example, I’ve seen how they have a completely different lifestyle there. They have a lot of gypsy blood in the community and culture, different ways of life. You’ll see mandem on horses and shit! Seeing the different areas and emcees repping their towns, people are now finally fucking with unique styles. Just like with Aitch. Sex-eh, Beck-eh, people like hearing different things than what they’re used to."
It’s going to be interesting as well to see how this translates to the notoriously difficult to crack the American market. I was shocked recently to see how recognised Slowthai is in the states, having such a specific British sound. I’m interested to see where that takes you in the future also.
"Yeah it’s crazy, Slowthai is doing bits in America. I remember him being on Jimmy Fallon I think it was. It’s because of that uniqueness again, Americans are actually intrigued by other parts of the UK aside from London I’ve found. They anticipate the Queens English and are surprised by something different. They love the Irish and Scottish accents so it may even prove to be a benefit, but it’s a slow journey. Right now we’re trying to convince people in the UK to fuck with us, you know what I mean! One step at a time."
You opened up for a lot of artists who’s tours stopped in Scotland, but what was it like heading out on a much bigger scale with Krept & Konan?
"For me that was sick. A lot of people obviously having watched the show realised the connection is there. If you’re a Krept & Konan fan you’ve most probably watched ‘The Rap Game’, and it was just the best experience. People knowing us, asking for pictures. The extent of it was crazy, the energy people gave us was madness. Because of being in London is was nice to come back to these places, certainly Glasgow, seeing mates it was a sick time."
Lastly just as a fan of music, who are you fucking with right now?
"In the US, Mick Jenkins. I love Mick Jenkins, or some of Lil Mosey’s new tunes. ‘Blueberry Faygo’ has been rinsed by the TikTok mafia now though! In the UK it's tough, I listen to so much music. As a musician who I fuck with changes so much all the time, but at the moment I’d have to say Chip and Headie One. I love what Headie One did with ‘Gang’, he just went outside the box. In fact, he left the box in a different country and just did something different and I rate that. Chip has to be on my list too because of his parts on the new album with Young Adz and Skepta, he’s just a different level! He says ‘your not the goat you’re mutton’ and shit like that, it’s crazy."
Chip definitely proved in his battles over the past year his lyrical ability, and that’s one thing I like about your music also. It’s apparent when listening to how important being a lyricist is to you, and when so many people just aim to create a vibe now it’s refreshing to see.
"Definitely. Sometimes I feel I write shit that will go way over some people’s heads and they don’t notice, but I don’t care. For me, as much as I love the musical and melodic side of things, I like building up on that. I got into rap because I love lyricism. I like those rappers that will say something and then it’ll hit you later, like Wretch. It’s all about making people think."
‘Northside’ featuring Kiico is out now on Link Up TV, you can catch that below. Ransom has some exciting projects lined up including new music and of course ‘Rap Trip’ with the BBC, so keep em peeled people!