Brooklyn, New York, born Randy Nicholls, the brother of three boys and two girls, was raised by a single mother after his father was killed when he was only 3. When his mom beaome ill in 1984, young Randy was shuttled off to a foster home for over four years before finally being reunited with her, and then moving to Jersey City at the age of eight. Randy’s teenage years were spent in the streets, which eventually resulted in him doing several bids in juvenile facilities.
His friends and business associates from the block would later go on to form their own company, Presidential, and invested $50,000 into acquiring recording equipment and a studio space. Shortly after, Ransom the rapper was born. He united with another aspiring Jersey artist, Hitchcock, and together they formed the short lived duo, A-Team. Although A-Team displayed their superb lyrical skills on a number of mixtapes, the group still parted ways in order to pursue solo endeavors. BallerStatus.com tracked down the 27-year-old wordsmith to find out about his past, present, and future in music…
BallerStatus.com: It seems that you’ve overcome a great deal of adversity and tragic life altering events. Explain to me how you persevered, and ultimately found the strength it took to continue on?
Ransom: I’ve had the will not to quit. My friends wouldn’t want me to stop doing what I’m doing. My daughter, when she was born, gave me strength. I don’t want people that told me I couldn’t do it to be right. My stubborn-ness keeps me from quitting. My mother and father not being there early on in my life, and going through that stuff alone at 9 and 10 years old, wondering where my parents was at [was devastating]. But, whatever don’t kill you make you stronger, and without that I wouldn’t be the man that I am today.
BallerStatus.com: On a less somber note, tell me how you discovered music?
Ransom: ’88 ’89 — around there, [I was] listening to Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap. Nas gave me goose bumps, and that’s when I was attracted to music. My brother was a big part of getting me into it, too. When I got out of high school, I didn’t want to have to work or hustle all my life, so I found something that I was good at.
BallerStatus.com: You mention Kane, G Rap and, especially, Nas. Who else were you paying attention to back then?
Ransom: Yes, Nas was a big part of my life, and also [Big Pun], Jadakiss, and like I said, Big Daddy Kane.
BallerStatus.com: Did you ever seriously think that you could actually eat off of rapping?
Ransom: At first, nobody think you good, then as time passed people thought I was good. It grew from there, and I was like, “Whoa!” Then, I thought about it seriously.
BallerStatus.com: How did you come about choosing the name Ransom?
Ransom: It’s based from my real name, and I took the Ran and went from there and came up with Ransom. I’ve had thousands of names before, but this one just stuck.
BallerStatus.com: Coming from a group situation with A-Team (you and Hitchcock, and, later, Joe Budden and late Stack Bundles), how’d the whole transition to soloist come to fruition?
Ransom: Easy, because I was a soloist from the start. We all were. Budden and Stack was, too. I like being solo better. The chance popped up, so I took it.
BallerStatus.com: You recently signed with Babygrande Records, correct?
Ransom: I had four CDs by myself already. I did pretty well for myself. My first one did 5,000 units. The last CD to date did 12,000, putting it out by myself, and I figured with a little bit of backing, I’ll do better.
BallerStatus.com: Define for me your style?
Ransom: My life — What I think of when I put the pen to the paper. What I been through. I’m not a “gangsta” rapper, but most will say I’m street. I cover the whole spectrum, exact style. Once I get bigger, you will see the expanse musically.
BallerStatus.com: Street Cinema is the title of your debut. Why did you opt to call it that?
Ransom: I always wanted to name a CD Street Cinema. All of my fans say I put them there in my music, so what I’m talking ’bout is like you are in a movie … a street movie.
BallerStatus.com: So, lyrically you draw all of your influence from true-to-life things and events?
Ransom: I’m the type that can’t write everyday. I have to have some motivation. I can’t force it. If I feel a certain way, it’s my emotions, and I write what I do. Good or bad in my life, I sit down and write about it.
BallerStatus.com: Who’d you work with on Street Cinema?
Ransom: My own production is in-house. I worked with others like Scram Jones, Trackdealerz, Spectacular, and Street Runner. I play a big part in it by picking samples, drums and stuff. I’ve made some beats in my time, too.
BallerStatus.com: Any stand-out tracks?
Ransom: Stack Bundles is on there. I was tight with him when he was alive, so I rep him on everything I do. I mean, I like all of them, but the most … “Big Wheelz,” “The Intro,” and “Walk Talk.”
BallerStatus.com: What are your ultimate plans for sticking around in this shape shifting industry?
Ransom: Me not being complacent, and never content. Artists get content. It’s taken so long for me to obtain and learn mistakes from others with money situations and this music. Longevity has to do with being complacent, and I’m never complacent.
BallerStatus.com: Since this is really only the beginning for you, what do your future goals entail?
Ransom: Artists use music as a stepping stone. I’ve read scripts, so don’t be surprised if you see me in something. Ten years rapping is not me. I like writing scripts, it’s like writing rhymes.
BallerStatus.com: Are you still calling out certain rappers to get in the ring and box with you?
Ransom: It’s whatever. I say anything to get attention. Rap is like WWF Wrestling. Best talker and actor always getting attention, not the best rapper.
BallerStatus.com: Hip-Hop, where do you see it futuristically speaking?
Ransom: Hip-hop now is in trouble. The business side is in trouble [with] all of the downloads. These bosses need to step up and sign artists with talent, or it’ll be like Nas says, “Hip-Hop Is Dead!” I’m definitely not happy with the state of it.
BallerStatus.com: Is there anything that you want known about you that can’t be learned from, and/or through, your music?
Ransom: Listen to my music, it is all here. There is nothing you won’t know. You will hear that I am a father, been in the streets, and trying to get out — just listen.
BallerStatus.com: What’s next for Ransom?
Ransom: [I see myself] with a lot of money, sitting with my feet up in a bug cushion chair at the head of something. I’m not follower, I’m a leader, and I lead by example. I’mma be a boss doing something.
BallerStatus.com: And, the well publicized feud on wax between you and Joe Budden, has that been squashed?
Ransom: Yeah, it’s squashed. I got nothing else to say ’bout him. Even if he says something, I’m done with him. If it’s that serious, we can meet up like two men and do what we gotta do.
BallerStatus.com: What started it all in the first place?
Ransom: Couple of things that led up to it and it was bound to happen. I just felt like doing it.
BallerStatus.com: What’s up with your former partner-in-rhyme, Hitchcock?
Ransom: I don’t know. I haven’t seen him in years … since the A-team. Hopefully he’s trying to do his thing. He is talented, and won’t have any problems.
BallerStatus.com: So, I guess an A-Team reunion is impossible at this point?
Ransom: I don’t know. I can’t say no, if that is what the cards call for.
BallerStatus.com: Are you still working in any capacity with DJ Clue?
Ransom: Me and Clue are friends. Nah, we haven’t worked musically in a long time, and I owe my current success to Clue.
BallerStatus.com: And finally, last but certainly not least, take some time out to speak on the tragic, and unfortunate, loss of your friend and, former, group-mate, Stack Bundle…
Ransom: Stacks made rapping fun. It hasn’t been fun since he died. Now it’s more like work. He brought energy and enthusiasm. Now it’s just like work, clock in and clock out. I don’t really f*** with anybody else. I’mma keep him alive in my music.
BallerStatus.com: How has his untimely passing affected, not only you personally, but hip-hop in general?
Ransom: The game took a big loss, and he was a future star. People just really didn’t know ’bout him.