Ro Ransom has more than made an entrance. After appearing on Jazz Cartier’s ‘Make a Mess’; a co-writing contribution on Khalid’s ‘Let’s Go’ from the Platinum ‘American Teen’ album; and touring with the UK’s biggest homegrown popstar of the year Dua Lipa, he’s just released his debut project ‘Momentum’.
The long awaited 10-track project fuses dark, gritty rap together with sassy, poppy hooks, and includes features from Jazz Cartier and Kensei Abbot amongst previously released singles ‘Doppelgänger’, ‘Donuts’ and ‘See Me Fall’. ‘Momentum’ is everything you’d expect it to be after two years in the making and puts him firmly in the league of rising New York rap stars. I caught up with Ransom over the phone while he had a moment of downtime between shows, “getting to do what I love every day”. Although I haven’t been lucky enough to experience one of his performances, I’m certainly intrigued after hearing him describe his live shows as “a lot of seductive energy happening at once, more than what anyone is used to at a rap show.”
Throughout the creative process of an album or mixtape, many artists find themselves developing their sounds and ideas and projects often chop and change along the way. Ransom, on the other hand, saw the final product in his head from the very beginning – and didn’t stop until it was executed to perfection. “It feels good because I had a vision two years ago and I saw it all the way through. It’s really reassuring to set out on something so specific and unique and have it come to fruition exactly the way I wanted, so it’s been a huge relief to get it out into the world.” Delving further into the influences behind the music, he explains “I got into a lot of new wave music, a lot of 80s influences… Culture Club, Bananarama and the entire culture, the Studio 54 vibes – and it really shows in these songs, on top of my other general influences from Justin Timberlake to Prince. All of that’s in there and I feel like it’s a really potent representation of who I am.”
I think the first time I’ve really gone from one level to another was with the Dua Lipa tour
The Harlem artist has certainly mastered the art of engaging with his followers and boasts a very supportive fanbase. “There have been moments throughout my career where I’ve engaged with my fans but I think the first time I’ve really gone from one level to another was with the Dua Lipa tour. I had done shows here and there but to actually go from city to city and touch the hands of fans and meet them face to face – that was definitely a huge step.”
Also referred to as Mystery Boy, Ransom stays true to his alter-ego’s identity, teasing “it’s not even a name I created myself, but I won’t get into where it came from just yet… I’m going to hold that close to the vest for the time being. But the concept has many different layers to it. You never really know what kinda music Ro Ransom is gonna do next. You can’t predict it. You don’t know what he’s gonna wear next, what he’s gonna say next, you don’t really know his intentions all the time. And it’s not even deliberate, it’s just how I’ve always been. Long before they called me Mystery Boy, I was going about my career this exact same way – now it just has a title.”
Something that plays a huge part in the mystery boy’s brand is his eccentric style. Scrolling through his Instagram page, your eyes are met with an array of far from the usual fashion statements – cut-out sleeves, masquerade eye masks, latex pants, and more recently, a not-so-subtle hint of make up. “I only began experimenting with my style like that a few years ago, probably when I started working on the project. I’ve always been eccentric on the inside, but it’s only been over the last few years that I’ve turned that inside out to let the world see it.”
I’m gonna dress how I want, I’m gonna rap how I want and I’m gonna sing how I want
So what gave Ransom the confidence to be free with his music and style? Was this awakening triggered by something in particular? “I had three things all happen to me pretty much at the same time. I went though a pretty gnarly romantic situation and when you go through something like that and it’s taking over your everyday life, it has you questioning yourself and your choices and why you do what you do. And these are all the kinds of existential questions I was asking myself. On top of that, I loved the music I was making but it wasn’t exciting me anymore and I knew I had to kick down the door of the comfort zone to be excited about what I was making again – and ‘Momentum’ ended up being the answer to that. Thirdly I realised it was about putting myself first and realising that the person who has to be happy here is me. So I’m gonna dress how I want, I’m gonna rap how I want and I’m gonna sing how I want because I’m the one who has to go to sleep with it at the end of the day.”
It’s certainly been one hell of a year for the recording artist but despite a string of accomplishments on stage and in the studio, Ransom insists the highlight has been releasing his precious body of work to the world. “Honestly, I spent the most time working on that so I really think that’s my highlight – as much as I loved touring with Dua, as much as I love touring with Witt Lowry right now, as much as I loved working with Khalid and everything in between, my highlight was really ‘Momentum’ because that’s my baby.”
‘Momentum’ is out now and you can stream it here.