Dynamic Scottish rapper, Ransom FA, speaks on the importance of shining a spotlight on talent up and down the UK on The Rap Trip, his musical chemistry with Lord Akira, and the bangers he's set to release.
It’s not often you come across an MC from Aberdeen, but Ransom FA is all about proving people wrong.
Regularly racking up tens of thousands – if not hundreds – of streams on his music, the rapper, who has been flexing his skills since 2016, is always on the up. From dropping music with fellow Scottish rapper, Shogun, on the notorious channel SBTV, to appearing on some of the UK’s biggest platforms like BBC 1Xtra, GRM, and Link Up TV, Ransom FA is no stranger to the screen.
Appearing on BBC Three’s The Rap Game, Ransom competed for a record deal against other ambitious young musicians. Since then, he’s gone from competing in a show to presenting one for the same network.
In The Rap Trip, Ransom and fellow rapper F.O.S travel around Britain, scouting out emerging rap communities and exciting new talent from areas of the UK that have had little recognition or representation of their abilities. It’s a topic that’s close to home for Ransom FA, who faced disdain from the music industry for being a rapper from Scotland – a country not previously known for producing the talent. Taking his uniqueness and leveraging it to become one of the most well-known artists from the area is truly indicative of Ransom’s dynamism. He’s even set up Ransom HQ, a studio in his hometown running workshops for up and coming local talent, to combat the alienation and lack of infrastructure others like him face.
From music to TV and philanthropy, is there anything Ransom FA can’t do? We caught up with the dynamic young creative to hear about his plans for new music, working with the producer Lord Akira, and celebrating his achievements.
The past few months have been difficult for many. How have you been during this time? How has it affected your creativity?
We had to take everything back to the drawing board. You know what I mean? A lot of things I had planned, obviously, because of COVID, couldn’t go ahead. But in the long run, after everything started going on again, things have started to fall into place. Everything’s happening exactly how I wanted it to happen, if not even better. So, yeah, it’s been a difficult, strange time. But everything is a lesson in itself.
Your new single “Table” dropped recently – a story about reflection and relief. What inspired the track? Was it personal revelations or a collection of stories from others?
I’ve been doing this for 10 years plus now. When I wrote that track, I was in a moment where I just kind of reflected on how far I’ve come. Obviously, there’s still so much more I want to do, but when I look back, and I look at where I am now and just reflect, I want to celebrate. I wanted to kind of embody that.The reason why it’s “Table” is because it’s about like, “what are you bringing to the table? You weren’t there when it was peak / That’s shameful”. So that’s why in the video, I brought my friends that I grew up with. That was kind of just a celebration of what we’re doing and how we continued taking it further.
That’s so nice. I watched the video and it does have such a joyful quality to it. Everyone’s so happy.
It was [shot] at a really nice hotel in London. And it was my birthday! All my friends came down from Scotland and we just enjoyed it.
The song was produced by Lord Akira. You’ve said that since linking up with him, you’ve been “finally able to make the music that energizes [your] imagination”.
Yeah, I say that this is the music that I make in my dreams and that’s what I’m making now. I was more into writing and using production software, but Lord Akira can play all the instruments under the sun. The piano, the saxophone… It’s just a madness. I’m able to come with these ideas, like the loop, and it just grows from there because he’s able to musically capture what I’m trying to say.
What was it that drew you to working with Lord Akira in the first place?
He messaged me on Instagram and it took me a while to see it. From the moment we linked up it was a vibe. It just felt natural, like I’d known him for years.
Do you feel pressure from being labelled one of the biggest names in Scottish rap and for your part in making the scene there flourish? Or is it an accolade you take in your stride?
Yeah, obviously it’s pressure, and you can say it’s pressure in a good way now. Before, it was a negative thing. It’s funny to see the different expectations people put on Scottish artists, and now that I’m one of the biggest Scottish artists, people are like, “oh but the pressure!” I’m just happy for people to see what I represent, but at the end of the day, I’m just an artist from Scotland. It is what it is. People can either respect that or not, but luckily they have come to respect that.
That’s something you recently explored in the new BBC Three show ‘The Rap Trip’, where you travelled Britain to explore burgeoning Rap communities, spotlighting artists who aren’t from London.
I loved it. It was to show that people outside of London are legitimately good at their own music thing. It’s not London rap, it’s not Birmingham rap, it’s UK rap.
Definitely. I think that’s something that needs to be emphasised more – that there are so many creatives from all around the country, and it’s not just from London.
Exactly, exactly. Unfortunately, it’s just that London is the hub of the UK music scene. When you wanna go to events or when you’re not in close proximity to something, you might miss out. You know how it is in London, you might hear of something last minute like a party that’s happening in two days. If you’re in Scotland or something, it’s harder to go to these things.
Do you think that’s something that’s changed during the pandemic? That London isn’t the hub that it used to be because everyone’s realising they can network closer to home?
Social media is changing the landscape of every industry – especially music. I got my message out because I learned how to maneuver social media quite early and saw how powerful it was as a tool. This time has just amplified the necessity of it. Although, the photoshoot I did with you guys today would have been a little bit more problematic had I not have been based in London.
Going back to The Rap Trip, what was your favourite part of filming the show?
My favourite part of the show was just everyone I met. Because I’ve been in the industry for a while, I’ve met a lot of artists. I could speak to them on a musical level. It was interesting to get an industry perspective from people I looked up to.
It’s not the first time you’ve been on telly – you also presented a documentary on Goal FM about football and an ‘Insider’s Guide’ to Aberdeen for BBC Scotland.
Yeah they came to my city [Aberdeen]. I did an insider’s guide where I showed them around. It’s been shown in America – and in Scotland for some reason.
Was TV and presenting something you always wanted to get into? Or has it sprung up as a result of your musical career?
When I got into music, I worked with my friend and we built up a media channel. I wasn’t only doing music, I was also doing interviews so it was kinda just a skill I picked up. As time went on, being in Scotland, I had to always make sure I used any opportunity, and there were some TV opportunities at the time. I knew that I could do it and I was interested in it. So it started with the MOBOs. I hosted the MOBOs for BBC Scotland, and then it kind of just grew from there. So it started off musically, but because they liked what I did, they were like, do you wanna introduce your hometown? So yeah, it kind of just happened, but I wouldn’t change it.
As well as music and TV, you’re also into philanthropy, opening up a ‘Ransom HQ’ studio space in your hometown of Aberdeen.
Yeah, I love business. That’s my main thing. I like to have a lot of things going on. You need to make sure you have all these different things covered nowadays. The idea with the HQ was, obviously coming from where I was, there wasn’t anything to help you get to the next stage, there wasn’t any infrastructure, especially for rap. When I came up, there one studio that didn’t know anything about modern music. They were very lost. And you’d have to pay like £30 an hour for the worst mixmaster. It just didn’t really give you any preparation for the real industry. For the HQ, I got my engineer in who’s been engineering my stuff from when I first started until very recently – until I moved to London. He’s now in with another guy, a producer. They’re now holding that down in Aberdeen and we’re helping the younger team come through. We’re going to start doing workshops. We’re going to be going into the schools for the kids and just encouraging them and giving them a chance to get into the music industry to show that it’s not impossible.
Lastly – in terms of music, what can we expect next?
I’ve got a ton of tracks just ready to go. I’ve got an EP dropping this year. Next year I’m gonna have my main project with Lord Akira dropping. It’s just an exciting time. During this whole crazy time and when I first moved to London, I was in the studio nonstop. I’ve bangers upon bangers ready to release.