“I really thought I was going to be a one-hit wonder,” he tells Billboard, sharing how he overcame depression to keep creating.
If there was any doubt about Kranium being at the forefront of the dancehall reggae market, set those aside. Emerging as a talented artist in multiple countries — mainly his homelands of Jamaica and the United States — Kranium is poised to take the next step in his career with his forthcoming eight-song EP, In Too Deep.
“Every time I create a record, I think of the obstacles of being a dancehall artist,” he tells Billboard. “That alone gives me enough confidence to relax and make sure that I’m putting out something that makes sense for everybody to enjoy.”
Kranium’s burning drive comes from being born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, but his flavorful swagger came from his move to the States at 12. The icing came when he carved out his breakout single with “Nobody Has to Know” in 2015. The gold-certified record received an extra boost when Ty Dolla $ign put his stamp on the remix, propelling the song to No. 2 and No. 44 on the Billboard Reggae Digital Songs and R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay charts, respectively.
The chart win landed Kranium a label deal with Atlantic Records later that year, and helped him accomplish a rare feat: becoming a star in the United States as a dancehall artist with little to no buzz in Jamaica. However, it came at a price, he explains, as life got rather dark once “Nobody Has to Know” became a hit.
“I really thought I was going to be a one-hit wonder,” he admits. “‘Nobody Has to Know,’ at that time, when it came out, was the only thing you were hearing. That was the only reggae that translated from the American market to Africa and the Caribbean at the time. It was a hard mountain and a high one at that.”
He adds: “I didn’t believe I would climb that mountain because that was the same time I went into a depression,” he says. “The first time I knew what anxiety and depression were was when that song came out. You get so much love, and then eventually it starts slowing down, and you start thinking everything doesn’t seem the same anymore, and then it’s like, ‘What’s next?’”
Kranium says that for artists in Jamaica, blowing up there is an “amazing feeling” because “it’s one of the most musical places on Earth.” He adds that the island nation “accepts music with no reservations,” and that artists there can get a hit record at any age so long as the music is good.
He came to understand there really is no blueprint, and what’s popular in one region may not be the same on the other side of the world. Music is universal, and that understanding got Kranium out of his rut and into a period of creativity that generated more hit songs, such as “We Can” featuring Tory Lanez, “Gal Policy” and more.
“I’ve always wanted to make a difference,” he says. “But I just didn’t know how. All I knew was I can only do that by being consistent and understanding there’s no blueprint for success. You have to just keep creating.”
With his new album In Too Deep, Kranium is looking to expand on the outlook he’s found with his career, which revolves around the idea that different music markets have their own go-to records. The first single, “Without You,” featuring Queen Naija, released last week, is a lush record with hints of Afrobeat, dancehall reggae, and R&B sprinkled throughout.
“I feel like music changes at a very fast pace, if we’re being fair,” Kranium says. “The sound changes every day, and you have kids on the internet that are creating their own thing because of different impressions and outlets, so what I do is basically adapt to the sound of what’s going on now while still keeping that authenticity of how I personally think music is supposed to be and that’s how I stand out.”
The world has more or less opened back up after the pandemic stopped everything when it hit in 2020, and there’s a whirlwind of emotions flying around with being back outside. People want something to feel good about after a crazy few years, and Kranium feels he’s giving that with In Too Deep.
“In Too Deep can mean two things,” he shares. “I’m a very sexual and raw artist, but I feel like it’s going to catch them when they really listen to the project and realize that I’m in too deep. I have a record on here called ‘Paranoid’ about having people around, and then you have dope love songs that nobody ever really heard from me.”
The eight-track album will feature only two other appearances by R&B sensation BLEU and fellow Jamaican artist Dexta Daps. An album with expectations of hitting different markets is expected to have several guests join the fun, but Kranium believes you can’t just throw anyone on a song, and he won’t work with just anybody, because it has to make sense.
“The way I work with artists, I never have a specific person I wanna work with. I always make the song first, and then I think this person would sound dope on it,” Kranium explains. “I have some big artists who have hit me up for a record, and I turned them down because I don’t want to put something out that’s going to backfire or waste an opportunity.”
Kranium hasn’t announced an official release date, but says the album is coming sooner rather than later. And with this new journey, the Mo Bay product wants fans to know he put his all into the project and will pour out even more in the future.
“I want my fans to take away the quality and time spent, the emotion in each voice, the growth, and creativity of a youth born different,” he adds. “I spent 19 months on this album. I feel like the quality is quality, while trends come and go. I want to be the artist when I’m old and gone that I’m still getting sampled 20 to 30 years from now, and that only happens with the realness.”