Kranium sets bar for overseas based artistes
Curtis Campbelll, Gleaner Writer
Many Jamaica-born artistes who reside in the US, and the UK, have tried to push their careers despite residing outside of the authentic reggae/dancehall atmosphere in Jamaica. Many have tried and failed to make an impact without moving back to Jamaica. However, rising reggae/dancehall sensation Kranium, says he has discovered the formula to reap success in Jamaican music while living in the abroad.
The artiste who resides in the US, says some overseas-based Jamaican artistes fail to achieve success in their endeavours, because they either employ ineffective promotion methods or simply forget their roots.
The singer, who migrated at age 13, currently has one of the most played records in Jamaica for 2014. The single, Nobody Has To Know, received over 7 million views on YouTube, and climbed several local charts in the process. Kranium also became one of Jamaica's first up-and-coming acts to be featured on internationally renowned urban television station BET, a platform which normally targets established acts like Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Sean Paul, Elephant Man, Mr Vegas and Shaggy.
The single also raised eyebrows on hip hop radio station Hot 97, and saw the artiste being featured on two separate programmes for the station.
The Gleaner recently spoke to Kranium about his strategy in breaking into the mainstream reggae/dancehall market while residing in the US. "I would say I never try to flood the market, I took it one song at a time and promoted it until the wheel fell off. With music in America, anybody can make it, but you have to make songs soak into people, because it is not as fast pace, as in Jamaica, so you have to take time with it. A lot of people get discouraged when a song does not pick up in five or six months, but I don't go about my music like that," he said.
The artiste disclosed that Nobody Has To Know was released for over a year before getting attention in Jamaica. However, he made sure to cement the single in New York first, a city which also has a strong Caribbean population and Caribbean-inspired events. The artiste also said, by doing dubplates, the single was able to move across boundaries in the pouches of DJs.
"You still have to do the street work like you are in Jamaica if you want to break from overseas, and you have to have the right song. I am also a humble person and I know how to deal with people, so my personality has some bearing on my success. I also associate with level-headed persons, because once somebody understands what is needed to be done, we can move forward without much obstacles," Kranium said.
The singer also pointed out that some overseas-based reggae/dancehall artistes tend to hinder their own progress whenever they sign to overseas-based record labels and forget that their music should still mirror the Jamaican influence.
"Most times, the artiste dem live inna America and they sing songs to appeal to American people, rather than singing inna your Patois. Some artistes get signed to a label and they start singing pop music? Yu cyah duh dat and a reggae music yu supposed to sing. Yu have to stay in your reggae lane for the people to like it. In other words, the music has to be authentic in the Jamaican dialect," he said.
Kranium also disclosed that he promotes his music at New York-based events, which are spin-offs of Jamaican events. "In Jamaica, you have Hot Mondays, in New York you have Monday Nights In New York, and other events throughout the week. So you just record your song and go and promote it there. Plus DJs from Jamaica are flying in and out of the US, now. So when they hear the hot songs, they normally bring them back to Jamaica," he said.
Kranium has set his bar for success even higher, as his follow-up single, Lifestyle, is also receiving attention both locally and in the US. The song is currently number two on the iTunes reggae chart. For those overseas-based artistes who think they need a platform in Jamaica to excel in reggae or dancehall, Kranium says the focus does not have to be on Jamaica.
"I am still one of the most selling reggae artistes. It's good to have Jamaica behind you, but you cannot focus on that, because Jamaica has a whole different structure and whole different politics, and I don't want to focus on that. So when the music is appreciated in Jamaica, I appreciate it, because at the end of the day, once it is a hit song, the people will love it," he said.
The artiste says he was told that he would not make it while living in the US. However, he is pleased to have silenced his critiques. Several artistes before Kranium have tried and failed miserably, some even opting to return to the island in the hope of making a closer connection with Jamaican music lovers.
Recording artistes like KC Jockey, Don Andre, Jey Marc The Lyricist, Onirose, Vision, Gappy Ranks, Lincoln 3 Dot, among others, are currently based overseas. However, unlike Kranium, they are yet to connect with Jamaica in a major way.