When songwriter and producer Carvin “Ransum” Haggins first collaborated with artist Musiq Soulchild, the singer asked him why he makes music. Haggins, with full confidence, tells the uplifting vocalist that he wants his music to “save the world.”
The selfless creative ambassador to Philadelphia and co-creator behind Musiq’s benevolent sound through memorable songs like “Just Friends (Sunny),” “Love,” “Halfcrazy,” “Dontchange” and “B.U.D.D.Y.” made his life’s work out of keeping his proclamation front and center.
Along with his production comrade since 2000, Ivan “Orthodox” Barias, Haggins is responsible for consistently creating mid-tempo compositions and heartfelt ballads under their Karma Productions imprint.
The prolific, Grammy-winning pair’s refreshing sound is heavily melodic and set to honest lyrics that deliver universal messages. “Music is the inspiration to your soul,” says a raspy-voiced Haggins via phone.
“I write music to give people an outlet for whatever it is they think. I pray that what I write is an expression of life. They can use song to escape whatever predicament or situation they’re in.”
Barias and Haggins became acquaintances-turned-collaborators through fellow Grammy winner DJ Jazzy Jeff. Their highly sought after Midas touch and comforting ingenuity blessed a range of performers like Will Smith, Jill Scott, Kenny Lattimore, Mary J. Blige, 2Pac, Keyshia Cole, Angie Stone, Chrisette Michelle, Justin Timberlake, Faith Evans, Darius Rucker, Leela James, SWV, Joe, Chris Brown, Tamia, Mario, Jaheim, Jazmine Sullivan, Ledisi, Estelle, Heather Headley, Raheem DeVaughn and Rick Ross.
Frequently taking a pause between responses, Haggins lists “gateways,” or shared experiences and significant moments among diverse people, as the foundation for his brand of songwriting.
As Haggins itemizes his list, it sounds like he’s sharing a secret recipe. “It has to hit home, resonate in everyone’s mind, have integrity and be real,” says Haggins.
He and Barias recently rebranded themselves as Forever Music, Inc. and Ethical Music Entertainment, which continues the duo’s knack for introducing artists, creating timeless music and implementing strong values in their intellectual property on their terms.
Reiterating how extremely grateful he is to have a successful career in the music business, Haggins makes it a point to expound upon the nucleus of his musical synergy with Barias.
“The idea of Karma [Productions] is what you put out is what you get back,” says Haggins, the recipient of this year’s Gamble and Huff Award for Excellence in Songwriting. “So that’s what we did. We just put out good music. We wanted to make sure that we honored our predecessors.”
There is a science to Haggins’ output.
Before he goes into the studio to make music, he interviews the artists. The conversation gives Haggins a better sense of what the artists feel and what’s on their mind.
It’s extremely important to the producer that he taps into their psyche to ensure that everyone involved in the creative process remains on the same page.
“If we don’t share the same understanding of this music and understand that we don’t do music for money but to change lives, then I can’t really share my gift with you,” he says. “Through that conversation, we can create a song that can be the same conversation that everybody is having privately.”
Haggins’ music has also endured its share of conflict.
There were times when record executives suggested to the producer that he make “edgier records” counter to his integrity. Naming songs like K Camp’s “Cut Her Off” and Beyonce’s “Partition”, Haggins told those executives that he would never compromise his mission by making that type of music.
“Those records don’t do nothing for your soul,” he declares. However, another situation prompted Haggins to work towards raising awareness about the quality of music being mass distributed.
Two years ago, he attended a new artist showcase in Philadelphia. Haggins remembers the predominately young audience singing along to songs full of vulgar lyrics and overtly sexual content.
Also a minister and Sunday school teacher, Haggins remembers getting dressed to go to church and deciding at that moment that he would speak out against the influx of obscene messages in music being heavily rotated on terrestrial urban radio.
This past May, Haggins became a spokesperson for Rage Against the Ratchet, a campaign that speaks out against urban radio stations rotating derogatory music. He’s involved because he hopes to try and alter the morality primarily within the black community.
“It’s my hope that all parents, adults and responsible children start to stand up for what they know is right and stop settling,” says Haggins.
“Start standing up for what you believe in, and move your life to a better place.” Committed to extending his musical activism, Haggins seeks to empower young people like the ones at that showcase.
He co-founded Destined to Achieve Successful Heights, or DASH Program, an integrated and interactive outreach initiative that teaches youth the ins and outs of entertainment and business.
Haggins, who survived a stroke in his teens, says his humanitarian efforts are deeply rooted in wanting to pay his success forward upon building his discography. He admits that he used to “run the streets and live a fast life.”
“My overall goal was to figure out when I get on how I can give back and give kids the opportunity to prosper,” says Haggins.
“What I live for and how I’m living is to make sure I can give those who don’t have the opportunity, the opportunity to be successful.” The DASH Program, Haggins adds, encourages young people to understand the importance of longevity and discipline.
“The idea is to show kids that there is a scene that works behind the music industry that actually lasts longer than some of the artists,” says Haggins. “You don’t have to earn your riches in front of the camera.”
Simultaneously, Haggins is in the process of co-organizing and fully developing Creative Minds, a STEM school. One particular program he’s extremely proud of is one that will allow kids to write music with the possibility of having a major artist record it.
From there, Haggins wants to get the record some airplay and try to create a revenue stream for the kids’ intellectual property. Any royalties generated will go towards the student’s college fund.
“We’re just trying to provide that equal footing for the less fortunate kid,” he says. “We want to make sure we provide our children with a rigorous school schedule and provide them with the skills of making music.”
Producing music in the studio has not taken a backseat. Haggins and Barias are working on new music for legendary trio The Three Degrees and artists on their Forever Music label.
Philly Sound architects Gamble and Huff even declared that Haggins and Barias are their musical offspring. Haggins fully accepts the compliment.
“We’re just making sure our elders are proud of our movement,” he proclaims.
“Whatever my purpose is, I accept it. I came from nothing. I work for those who have nothing. I gave my life to uphold those who couldn’t fight. I fight for people who are afraid to fight. I’m a giver.”
This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.