On paper, Ransom is an unremarkable artist. Possessing a street-hardened gruffness, abrasive tone and a penchant for stereotypical New York Hip-Hop themes, Ransom has survived the overcrowded NYC market for street rappers of the 2000s to continue releasing projects; “Soul Killa” being his latest LP. At eleven tracks, it’s a strong selection of tough, gritty tales from Ransom that has a couple of genuine bangers.
Royce Da 5’9” dominates the song “Soul Killa” but it feels like Nickel Nine is ranting by the time his verse ends, which is quite off-putting considering it’s the second track. Thankfully, production has always been one of Ransom’s strong points and “Soul Killa” is no different in that respect. Having just recovered from Jadakiss’ argument to be included in fans’ Top 5 Dead or Alive lists, Ransom puts himself forward for consideration on “New World” but thankfully doesn’t impose this idea on the listener. Ransom isn’t even in that discussion, but that’s simply because his fanbase doesn’t extend quite as deep as many other emcees. He’s a solid if unspectacular rhymer, but one who sounds brilliant over the correct production. A case in point is “Billy Joel”, a monstrous, train de-railer of a production that elevates a thankful, if boastful Ransom as he drops the underground rap image in favour of lavish, Roc Marciano-like imagery. He also holds his own amongst some of the elite emcees from the Big Apple in Action Bronson and Joey Bada$$ on “Knicks”.
“Hashtags” is like hearing Kanye West’s early Roc-A-Fella work again, which is clearly a good thing. The decade-old sound of the production is better than expected, as it doesn’t feel like a shoddy update of yesteryear, which is something some of the recent L.O.X. artists’ work has suffered from. That’s not to say there aren’t a couple of duff beats though – “Intervention” and “Culture” both suffer from way too much bass (unless my headphones are on their last legs).
If you grew up with that gritty yet clean style of New York Hip-Hop from the early 2000s, you’ll enjoy this project more than most. Ransom doesn’t do anything special on the mic, but what he does do, he does very well over some suitably crunchy backdrops, which for the most part is very satisfying. This should come as no surprise, as 2013’s “The Proposal” was equally enjoyable, and another short, strong slice of street rap worth checking out too.