Q&A with Ro Ransom

by Kyle Rossini

Q&A with Ro Ransom

WRBB’s Kyle Rossini caught up with Ro Ransom to speak on his TRL-inspired influences, staying true to yourself, and his next project, Possessed.

Your music has been defined as pulling from late 1990’s – early 2000’s hip-hop and R&B, and I just wanted to get a gauge of what sound you specifically see yourself trying to capture in your music?

I always say that two of my biggest influences are Justin Timberlake and Aaliyah. Everything I do, you can find the DNA of Justin Timberlake in my whole last album, and you can find the DNA of Aaliyah in the whole record I’m putting out now. That was just in my most vulnerable formative years when I was finding out about music, and the stuff that really pulled at my heartstrings was Aaliyah, was Destiny’s Child, was TLC, was Justin Timberlake, and I grew up being in love with rap music too. Being in love with Eminem’s music and being in love with Lil Wayne’s music, and now what you’re seeing is a hybrid of all those things blending together.

That’s fantastic, and you already started answering my next question about your greatest musical influences. What introduced you to them, and what prompted you to start making music in the first place?

I’m a child of TRL. I feel like TRL was the first Spotify playlist in a sense that, before [Spotify], MTV would play Run DMC and did a record with Aerosmith, and that blended genres. When I was growing up, seeing Christina Aguilera next to Dr. Dre next to Sum-41 next to Jay-Z, and seeing the best of everything put together, was really formative for me. I’m also from the hood so rap was inescapable, just being a person who lived through the culture, that’s how my lens was formed. Honestly, the way I started rapping was my older brother was rapping and girls liked him, and I was like “well if that’s what it takes to get girls, I’m in.” I started to become a sponge, and Daft Punk was huge, I think Daft Punk was the first album I ever bought. I might have been 8 or 9, I was just a sponge just watching the TRL and 106 and Parks and huge TV countdowns and just taking it all in, and that was my escape from living in the hood.

Going off of that, did growing up in Harlem have an impact on your perception of music?

Well, I mean, I think the biggest thing that living in the hood did for me as far as the actual sound of my music is it gave me confidence. Every day I was kind of ostracized because I thought Pharrell was super cool and I was wearing ‘icecreams’ and colorful clothes that wasn’t the coolest in the hood at the time, but it gave me thick skin to be like, “this is what I believe, and this is what I like, is what I identify with, and I don’t care what anybody thinks,” and I still have that mentality today, that’s what’s carried through in my music all these years. I’m gonna do me, sometimes I just gotta go do my own thing. That’s who I’ve been this entire time, no matter what’s going on around me, I’m gonna just stick to what I know, what I identify with, and I don’t care what anybody thinks.

I’ve seen you’ve built up a very impressive collection of accolades and accomplishments over the length of your career so far, and now that your music is starting to produce tangible results, people are acknowledging your work. How do you work now to either redefine or keep true to what you consider as success and impact in what you do?

For me, I don’t know if this is good or bad, if this is smart of stupid, but for me, its always been to just stick to my essence, and stick to what I know and who I am. No matter what happens, I can’t do anything other than what’s in my heart. So no matter what, even if I sell 10 million records, I know Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory blew my mind, and I don’t really care what’s going on in the culture, that [album] meant something to me, and so if I pull from that, that’s the inspiration I’m pulling from. So I always make the music that I want to make at that time, but at the same time anyone who listens to me will tell you that I have my own sound, even if I’m making pop, even if I’m rapping for 50 bars, you know its Ro Ransom when you hear him. The way I respond to any accolades I have or haven’t gotten is to stick to that no matter what.

That’s fantastic. Bouncing off of that, I know you recently signed a deal with the Sony-imprint Same Plate Records. Do you feel that you’ve been able to maintain your unique style, and as you were saying, going between pop, rap, and R&B, do you feel you’ve been able to keep that innovative approach to your music while signed to a major overarching record label such as Sony?

Yeah, I mean, first of all, they signed me because of me. They wanted to work with me because of who they heard in the first place, and I think that if they wanted to come in and change that, it would probably not be a smart decision. But even on top of that, I wasn’t going to get into a partnership with anybody if I didn’t feel like I was going to be able to do everything I wanted to do creatively, because that’s my bread and butter; that’s what makes me me, so I made sure I was comfortable knowing that they were going to allow me to be the artist I wanted to be before I even put my name on anything.

I know you spent time in 2017 touring with artists such as Dua Lipa and Witt Lowry. What about the tour life did you like, what did you not like, and how did being surrounded by people like that help you grow as an artist, taking away lessons and inspiration?

I liked all of it, even the stuff I didn’t like, I liked, because it was learning. You wake up, you have to get in the bus, you have to drive four hours first, you’re cramped, you have to pull up to the venue, bring out the equipment, prepare for the show, do sound check, do the show, hang out in the crowd with the fans, which is the best part, and then hop in the car, drive another four hours to a midpoint, sleep for two hours on the floor, wake up and do it all over again. That’s a learning experience and what I can come to expect. Those were my first tours. My first tour I ever went on was with Dua Lipa, and it was all just me taking notes and learning. As far as being around people like that, I learned so much just watching [Dua Lipa] from afar, seeing how hard she worked, seeing how gracious and grateful she was for everything that was being put in front of her. For her at that level was a message to me that it doesn’t really matter who you are or where you’re from, what you accomplish, this is hard work and you also have to be grateful for that hard work.

What can people expect from your next project, Possessed, slated to drop this summer? Can you speak a little to the structure and content that we can anticipate?

My last project Momentum was really me telling a story front to back and really giving people a taste of each of the different things that I can do. I don’t really jump feet first into any specific thing on Momentum, and I would say the difference is probably that on Possessed, I’m more leaning into my pop influences, more so leaning into that TRL sound, that 1999, 2001 kind of a feel and again, flipping it in my own way, and doing it with my own lens. You know there is the DNA of women who’s music I grew up on, like a Fergie or a Gwen [Stefani], it’s all in there. It’s almost like I’m being “possessed by my female influences. That’s really what this chapter for me is about, because you can’t really understand who I am without me telling you that part of the story.

Listen to Ro Ransom: