Harlem-born rapper Ro Ransom is nothing less than forthcoming about who he is and what he’s about—he’s such an enigma that he’s earned the moniker “Mystery Boy.” Wearing his heart on his WWE-inspired latex sleeve, Ro has been turning heads over the past few years with his genre-defying sound and subversive lyrics.
PRØHBTD got Ro on the phone to chat with him about his new single “Floetry” and what he’s cooking up next. Over the course of the conversation, we delved deep into all things Ransom, including the role cannabis plays in his creative process, his philosophy behind embracing feminine energy and the lone teacher who supported his musical ambitions. Somehow, even when answering all our questions, the Mystery Boy proved to be no less of an enigma than before.
First, tell me about “Mystery Boy” and the origins of your persona.
It’s pretty funny—I didn't start calling myself mysterious, [other] people started calling me mysterious. It's one of those things where you don't know how you really act, and so other people make you aware of it. I'm just a private person. I'm just what some would call an eccentric person. I have unique taste, and I think the combination of all those things can sometimes confuse people, and that's where the general idea comes from. I don't even want to say ideas! It's like… it's not an idea, I wake up every day as a person.
So, do you think that you're mysterious, or is it just other people putting that on you?
Well, I mean, I still put one sock on at a time. Maybe that's part of my life that nobody sees, but I understand why people have that perception of me. Because [when] I was in middle school and high school, people were confused by me then. It only makes sense that the more I grow into my own as a person, dress how I want, talk how I want, switch genres how I want… that people interpret that as mysterious.
People have a hard time trying to get you to pin down where you fall stylistically under the larger umbrella of hip-hop. I'm not going to make the same mistake, but I do want to ask: What trends and tropes in the genre do you find yourself incorporating in your own work? What feels tired?
I like a lot of certain things. I just like how there's no rules right now. That's the trend that I like. People are taking chances musically, [and] that's my playground. That's where I can really exhibit all my different sides. When Prince came out, people were confused by how his first album is not really like his second album, [which] is not like his third album. Even when Drake came out, people were like “I don't get that. This guy's doing R&B songs on Tears for Fears and also doing 80-bar verses.” Now that those walls have been broken down, it's a lot easier for me to be free and just engage with my creativity the way that I truly want to.
As far as stuff that I think is tired, I just think that—and maybe this makes me old—but, I like really good music…
A bold statement.
(Sarcastically) Yes. I like good songs and for me… it feels like, for some artists right now, it's about everything but the song. I'm not angry at it. I understand what it is, and I understand the human nature that feeds it, but it kind of makes me go "okay." Are we in the music industry or are we in a different industry than that? Because where's the music at?
It’s interesting that you bring up song content. While you have your own lyrics about women, you’re not engaging in the kind of toxic masculinity that can be common in the genre. Are you purposefully trying to rise above that, or is this a sign of the times that comes naturally to you?
You're right, I think that's just me. I have this friend named Emmy from Seattle, she's an amazing artist, and I was playing her Doppelganger before it came out. She heard the line where I said, “You took advantage when you took me home.” She stopped and looked at me and was like, "You're saying that… about a girl?" and I'm like, “Yes. That's what happened.” I guess that's not a thing that a rapper would usually say in a song, but to be honest with you, that's really just me and who I am. I'm just like, I'm very—my relationship with my emotions or my ability to be feminine or lean into my feminine energy or anything like that—it doesn't get in the way of me being a man or me having masculinity. It's none of that. It doesn't get in the way, so I just own it.
Your fashion sense pulls from a variety of those energies. From where do you draw your sartorial inspiration?
I definitely would say that Prince is an influence on me. I would say Frieza from Dragon Ball Z, and definitely this one is on me 100 percent. Jeff Hardy, a pro wrestler I grew up watching, he was one of the first people I saw that made me be like, “Oh shit, you can be weird and successful.” He would have different colored hair and strange, shiny white platform shoes and fucking latex arm sleeves and shit, but he was still hard. People fuck with him. Girls fuck with him. But no one looked at him like he was weird. He definitely put something in my brain when I was seven years old that I had still haven't let go.
You recently wrapped up two big tours. What was the biggest surprise you encountered on your trip?
That's a good question. The surprise was how well it went. (Laughter.)
The surprise was how receptive the fans were. Not only the Dua Lipa fans but the Witt Lowry fans, too. They were super chill. They're having a good time. The people who didn't know me were like that. I was kicking it in the crowd taking 100 pictures every night and shit like... shaking hands.
I think that's why both of those tours make sense because I feel like I am something that those two fan bases were not privy to. But I feel like I am something that both of those fan bases would be interested in had it just been put in front of them. I think they got to have that.
It was not surprising, but her tour was a lesson on just how hard Dua works. This was before “New Rules” took off. She was still working like a maniac waking up, doing press, doing interviews, photoshoots, whatever. Then come and shake the soundcheck, doing the show, singing her ass off for an hour [and] then doing meet-and-greets. Then driving to the next town. She was busting her ass, and it shows you what it takes, the real human sacrifice to become what she's become.
I've seen you also mentioned interest in dipping your toes in other forms of media. Is there a particular area that you'd like to explore?
My aspirations evolve over time, so who knows how I'll feel later. I definitely have ideas for cartoons. I have ideas for games. I got all type of shit that I want to do that isn't necessarily just like, doing the biopic. (Laughter.)
At the end of the day, I really just make the shit that I know I would have wanted as a 13-year-old or as a 14-year-old. I know what I love. I know that a lot of artists don't cater to who I was when I was 13. I want to paint with those color palettes and do those types of things to really just give people those experiences that they can relate to, they can feel something with, they can live with, cry with, laugh with. I feel like I can do that in way more ways than just through songs.
Let’s talk about your new single “Floetry,” the star of the hour here. In the song you mention a teacher, Miss Rosenberg, as being the only person who believed you could amount to something. What “G-Shit” was she on? Any words of wisdom that stuck with you?
She was just super chill. I know she was hyped for this when I shouted her up. She came to the Dua Lipa concert! Even beyond that, when I was in high school, I would be going to the studio from 8 p.m. till 6 a.m. [I was] coming straight to class from the studio, and then I would have her class [in the morning]. I'm not gonna say she leaned off me. She definitely had an understanding that this dude's trying to do something and I know there are rules here that he needs to abide by, but I’m going to cut him some slack because I can tell that he's working super hard. That it will be worth it. We didn't have to say much to each other about it at the time. We always had an understanding. Now that I'm a grown-ass man, we're super cool. She supports everything I do.
That's the best. It’s wonderful to have an educator like that who gets it.
She's awesome. She's rare, too. I want to give Miss Rosenberg all the props and clout that I can give her. She's not just a teacher, she used to, like, do online media. She would do the fan clubs and radio websites for *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys and shit. All that boy band stuff. I'm pretty sure, like the labels, like make content for Christina Aguilera. I hope I'm not getting any of this wrong. She's a writer now—she writes for Lifetime. You might have to interview her.
Well, if she’s that rad, I doubt she’ll mind this next question. Could you elaborate on the role that cannabis plays in your creative process?
Of course. Especially [with] this project that I'm about to put out, definitely, the kush played a huge role just as far as mostly removing the distractions. Working on certain records, like the new single that will or won't be out, I was just high out of my mind. It made it to where the only thing that existed was me and the beat. Whatever was going on in my life, or whoever else was in the room, or whatever happened in the earlier that day, none of it mattered. It just had me tuning in. Obviously different strains have different effects, but I would be literally just hearing the hi-hats and being like, "Damn, I came up with a crazy flow." I was just in a hypnotic zone. As far as the relationship where my music is concerned, what it did was just help me find what was already there. I already had everything I needed to make these records. It just was about tuning out life and just focusing.
I was trawling through your Twitter and, as a huge fan of Vine myself, I'm very much on board with your recent tweet about it. I want to hear how you thought Vine was about to end racism.
Shoutouts for my boy little Erin! Me and him were having a conversation a few nights ago, and that's the impetus of that tweet. We really had a conversation on the impact of Vine and human empathy. It goes back to what I was saying about the games and the cartoons. Vine was this thing that brought people together where it was like we're all going to laugh. No matter where you're from… you chew tobacco and you're from North Dakota and this is your lifestyle? If you make me laugh and I'm like some 17-year old black kid in the hood doing a funny dance and I'm making you laugh, that's a love trade-off. Who knows if Vine was actually about to end racism, but I just really thought that it was bringing people together in a way that other social media wasn’t. Facebook ain't doing that.