• Thelma Khupe

Kranium Speaks On Recording His Hit 'Nobody Has To Know' In Two Takes And His Plans For 2021

Kemar Donaldson, a.k.a Kranium has solidified his spot as one of the most revered dancehall musicians in the world. Known for his 2013 breakout hit single "Nobody Has To Know", catapulting him into mainstream success and international accolades, the Jamaican born artist has since been signed to Atlantic Records and garnered over half-a-billion streams (and counting) as well as a catalogue of international features with the likes of AJ Tracey, Mahalia, Burna Boy and Ty Dolla $ign. His impact on the industry and contributions to dancehall is unequivocal, landing him a recent nomination for the Best Dancehall Act category for the 2021 Caribbean Afro Music Awards (CAMA) taking place next year in London.

In the lead up to the release of his long-awaited EP ‘Toxic’, we sat down with Kranium and spoke all about his experience growing up in Jamaica & New York, his song writing and what his next steps are.

This is Kranium.

For the full interview, watch below:

You were recently nominated for the Best Dancehall Act category for the 2021 Caribbean Afro Music Awards (CAMA) taking place next year in London. Congratulations, how does that feel.

Thank you so much. I don't really watch many award shows and stuff, I'm mostly just working. But I'm happy that I'm recognised by them, so I just keep working.

Obviously there’s a lot to talk about with the upcoming release of your EP ‘Toxic’ and we’ll get onto that in a bit but first I want us to take it all the way back to the beginning. You released your hit single ‘Nobody Has To Know’ back in 2013 which catapulted you into the mainstream music scene and gave you international recognition - Did you ever anticipate the success of that or was it an unexpected hit?

Yeah, it was an unexpected hit. I don't think no artist knows exactly what's going to happen when we leave the studio, but I definitely knew the potential that it had. I knew the song was fresh. I knew that people would react to it because of the message of the record, you know, and that was me just expressing myself on exactly how I felt around that time. That's exactly what I felt to so I knew it was real. And people like realness. So, yeah, I didn't know exactly what I'd done, but I knew we had potential to do good things.

So You lived in Montego Bay Jamaica until you were 12, before moving to Florida and then Queens in New York a bit later. What was it like having to relocate at such a young age?

I mean, it was not easy. As a kid, I think some of the best times in a kid's life is between nine and like fourteen. I think at 14 you start having responsibilities. So I think that was a good age for me, just being on an island with friends and then having to migrate. It was a very drastic change for me. It was very frightening to have new friends and all that stuff. I was mostly worried about school.

The most frightening thing for me, was just going to school, like just starting school. It wasn't like something that any kid would want to do, you know, just transfer from school after you've just created that bond with friends and now you have to just migrate and switch to a whole new country. So that was the most frightening part. Other than that I had fun and I'd do it again.

You're currently living in New York which has the world’s biggest Caribbean community outside of the West Indies. What has your experience as a dancehall artist been like in New York?

It was very shocking because I wasn't thinking about seeing any other Jamaicans you know, that was never my mentality. But when I got there, it was a lot of Caribbean people. A lot I'm saying. And funnily enough I felt still at home. I didn't feel like I moved much.

I feel like, you know, I was still getting the Jamaican news, I was still getting Jamaican music, food was was still there, the accent was everywhere. I felt the community, and it was just cool because now I started rolling with Guyanese and Trini's and Africans and, you know, Italians were in the mix and Mexican's were in the mix. It's such a dope melting pot.

I read that you took the name Kranium from your ability to record songs “straight off the head” with no pen or paper, how accurate is that account?

Yeah, it's crazy, man, I talk about all the time. 'Nobody Has To Know' was done in two takes. It was is something that I developed because I hate writing, since I was a child I hated writing stuff. I got punishment, you know, back in the days when you got punished and your parents would make you write the same thing a hundred times. I was was very vindictive when I was a child, so I always did what I wanted when I wanted to it. So I was always being punished. I just hated writing.

My uncle, who is a veteran and does music told me that music will become easier and he'd call it 'nonsense music'. He said it's going to be mumbling and just, less words. So I just created [the idea] in my mind that I wanted to freestyle records and just express exactly how I feel and write the pain away. So I just want to let go of the first thing that comes to mind. I don't listen to beats either, I never listen to beats beforehand.

What’s your favourite song on the EP?

'Won't Judge' is the shit.

You’ve previously collaborated with some UK artists before from the likes of Chip, Kojo Funds and Wretch 32. Can we expect anymore collabs in the near future?

Yeah, I just did a record for Steff London's project that she's coming out with, dope record. And yeah man I still work with a lot of them. Like B Young, I met him in South Africa and I've worked with him before and this is like the next record. I'm always going to love the UK, that's one of my favourite places, the city of London.

There's three places on Earth that I adore musically, where I think it's not just the musicians that make good music but the people have good ear for music, that's London, Jamaica, Nigeria and Ghana. It's great out there, for some weird reason is like God sprinkled that extra tune in their ears, you know.

Is there anyone in the UK scene you’re listening to at the moment?

Well, right now I'm listening to old school music. And the reason why is because I'm getting geared up for the next EP. So I don't really like to listen to anybody that's out now because I don't want to be influenced by that song. If you ask me what the top five records are right now, I can tell you. I'm being honest straight up because I just block my mind from it. But after I go back to it. So any time I'm creating I don't listen to what's going on. Never, ever.

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