HBO’s medieval fantasy series Game of Thrones coined the term “Winter Is Coming” as an ominous warning of impending doom. For rapper Ransom and DJ Drama to borrow the phrase for the prolific mixtape MC’s latest effort is a bold claim, suggesting he plans to bring a northern chill to the game. Drama helps him elevate his game and live up to the title for the most part, but the entire project is not up to the royal caliber the cover suggests.
Ransom’s Gangsta Grillz project has been highly anticipated by diehard lovers of his brand of wordplay-heavy street music. But for most mainstream listeners, Winter Is Coming is either an introduction or a reintroduction for the few who may remember his mid-2000s work with Joe Budden and other mixtape giants. The tape begins with Drama doing what he does best, talking smack on “Winter’s Here” before Ransom sways onto the rattling track. “Don King” and “They Wanna Know” knock equally hard but lack a creative touch that distinguishes them from any of the handful of generic bangers that fill the tape.
The melodic “Red Bottoms” is a welcome departure from the tape’s mostly singular sound. When Ransom is not boasting about his street exploits or rhyming skills he’s just as capable an MC, but his familiar story and loyalty to his core fan base will likely keep him grounded in the mixtape ranks. “How many rappers been to hell and back?/Yeah I was writing rhymes but I was selling crack,” Ransom says on the bumping but forgettable “I’m a G.” The answer to his question is a lot — his vague metaphor makes him comparable to pretty much every MC who’s overcome struggle — but therein lies his issue. Either he lacks the skill to differentiate himself from his peers or he doesn’t have artistic ambition to try.
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