"Why these mothaf*ckas keep not trying to put you on?," a hypeman asks incredulously on New Jersey rapper Ransom's Pain & Glory mixtape, echoing the thoughts of critics, internet forums and the streets alike. With the A-Team's aptly titled Hardhood Classics mixtape trilogy, Ransom and his now-estranged partner Hitchcock won accolades for trading prize punchlines and grimy verses over borrowed beats. The group's affiliation with DJ Clue's Desert Storm helped Ran and Hitch gain exposure, which according to Ransom facilitated a meeting during which L.A. Reid agreed to sign on the dotted line. The Def Jam deal never came to fruition, Hitchcock was briefly incarcerated, and the relationship between the two partners went bad. Following the A Team's 2006 split, Hitchcock fell back while Ransom inaugurated his solo career with features on DJ Clue's Fidel Cashflow and Fabolous' Loso's Way. On astring of mixtape releases leading up to the recent Best In the City 2, Ransom's lyrics have grown increasingly introspective, cautionary and determined. Following Joe Budden's unapproved reunion of A-Team on Mood Musik 3, lyrical darts have been thrown between the two New Jersey natives. In a conversation with Allhiphop.com just prior to the sparring, Ransom subtly hinted at some burgeoning tension with Budden. Hungrier than ever, 'duffle bag Ran' announced his intention to win over the game by brute lyrical force. AllHipHop: You recently wrote a heartfelt song about Stack Bundles, "Tell It Like It Is." Was it therapeutic for you to go in the booth and do that?Ransom: It actually was. If you listen to it, I wasn't even talking about it and it just came out. I didn't go in intentionally to talk about that but that's what happened, so I guess it was therapeutic.AllHipHop: You've said in your lyrics that you give the good and the bad of the hood, but people still label you as negative. Do you think people understand the messages you're putting out there?Ransom: Nah, I don't think people are really listening yet. Either when I get famous or rich or whatever, people will go back and listen to what I actually used to say and go "Oh yeah, I guess he did talk about that." I think they're like "Oh, he's hard or whatever, he said gun in this line and the beats hard, gangsta rapper." But if you look deeper, there's amessage.AllHipHop: How much do you think that your affiliation with Desert Storm and DJClue has helped your career?Ransom: It definitely furthered my career as far as being heard, I just wonder how far they can take me. But to this point it's furthered me, I guess to its pinnacle, I don't know if you can go any further. I'm not trying to start anything, but I'm just wondering. AllHipHop: Does Clue help you when it comes to shopping you to labels?Ransom: I have no idea. Probably one meeting when I was with the A-Team and we went to Def Jam and we seen LA Reid and we were actually gonna sign there but something happened, Jay Z got there and it was "Let me look it over" and all that sh*t, and it just didn't go down after that.AllHipHop: So LA Reid was feeling the A-Team?Ransom: When we went there it was actually a go, definitely a go. We had a celebration and everything. But everything happens for a reason, now I'm solo and starting something new.AllHipHop: You start off the "This Is Family" posse cut on Fabolous' new album. Do you feel like at this stage in your career features such as those help much?Ransom: Nah, not at this stage. Not where the state of rap is right now, [there 's] probably nobody I could do a record with that would make a dent as far as people talking like "Oh wow, he did a record with this person, I'm gonna give him a deal." AllHipHop: You and Hitchcock were really compatible. Do you ever miss thatchemistry you had in the booth?Ransom: Not really, I didn't look at it as chemistry cause it was a group and it was like "You do your verse, I do my verse." You put any two good rappers together and they gonna sound compatible I guess, but if you really look into the music, we were never talking about anything except guns, bitches and drugs. We never had a message or a subject to talk about.AllHipHop: Do you think the split with A-Team furthered your career?Ransom: I don't know if it furthered it, I'd say that creatively it probably furthered it. With a partner you don't really get to explore your creativity. It's like I wanna talk about this, alright, let's talk about that. But I can't really get on the track and talk about my father and another n**** come on and talk about hittin' a n**** with a bat in the knee, the shit just don't match up. But I'd make any situation work, so if we still was the A-Team, it'd still be the same shit as far as where I'm at right now.AllHipHop: Since you and Hitch dropped "The Truth" and "Emotions" explaining yoursplit, has anything changed between you guys, are you talking at all?Ransom: I haven't seen him, I haven't seen Hitch in a long, long, long time. But I don't got no hard feelings. I'm just trying to do my thing, I know he's trying to do his thing. I wouldn't say nothing to try to digress what he's trying to do. If he's trying to still do it and still get a deal. If I can help you, I help you. But I haven't talked to him in a long time, so take it for what it's worth.AllHipHop: You allude to quitting a lot in your music, do you get frustrated with the rap game?Ransom: Yeah, every other day. And then I sit down and I write and it comes out. If I didn't have the avenue to write, I'd do harm. But I have the avenue and I release it and it gets better the next day. I think about it all the time. I think about "Why the f*ck?" I'm notsaying I'm the greatest, well actually I am saying I'm the greatest but still Why the f*ck is n****s not checking for me? AllHipHop: You have the respect, but you're not on yet. Do you have any answers to why that is?Ransom: Yeah well I think about this 24/7, I got a lot of time to think about it. I come up with 1,000 theories, but I don't know which one is correct. People respect the lyrics and respect me as far as that. As far as visibility and press, I don't get the press time that other rappers get, even the other unsigned artists, you probably see them more than you see me. You might see a Murda Mook more than you see me. No disrespect to what he's doing. You might hear me more than you hear other people, but how many times have you seen me?AllHipHop: On that song "Where Did It Go Wrong?", Joe Budden says "Things justhaven't been the same since the A-Team split," what was that about?Ransom: I don't know what he's talking about. What is he talking about? What hasn't been the same since A Team split? I don't understand that shit. Like the world hasn't been the same, or the game? Nobody knows us. What hasn't been the same? His life? Did we affect his life that much? I'm just wondering.AllHipHop: He helped put A-Team on, so did something go wrong there?Ransom: I still talk to Joe, I ain't got no problem with Joe. I'm on Mood Music 3, if he doesn't take me off or whatever. Nah he's from Jersey City, so there's never gonna be no animosity. He says what he feels, I guess he feels like things haven't been the same since the A-Team split. I don't get it, I don't know nobody really knew us, we was up and coming, we was trying to do our thing. But maybe things wasn't the same for him cause we had his f*ckin' back as far as n***** coming at him and we was right there in the back like "Yeah, what's good?" Maybe that hasn't been the same. AllHipHop: Why do you think so many rappers from New Jersey are underrated?Ransom: There hasn't really been nobody prominent from Jersey to come in the game and really stand out. Like Redman, but then he became a comedian and he started doing slapstick. And Queen Latifah, didn't she start doing slapstick? If you from New York or Brooklyn, ni**** got a handout to pull you up cause there's always a Brooklyn n**** in the game, there's always a Queens n**** in the game, there's always aHarlem n**** in the game. There's never a Jersey n**** in the game..AllHipHop: What's next for you?Ransom: I'm trying to take over the world, this game is trash. I'm trying to bring a little rap back to it. People might think I'm crazy saying I'm the top 5 or whatever, but that's the kind of sh*t you gotta say when people don't notice you. So I'm gonna start saying a whole bunch of crazy sh*t, and maybe people will start listening and say "You know what? This guy is actually good." Best In the City 2 is out, I got another mixtape Ransom Note, coming right after that and it's 10 times more crack. Once you hear that, you're gonna put your head through the wall.