2016: The Year in Charts

NYC Dancehall Star Kranium Signs Multiple Album Deal With Atlantic Records

Joachim Maquet
Kranium

"I am really excited to be back in the reggae business," Atlantic president Craig Kallman tells Billboard.

With the release of his sly, sultry single "Nobody Has to Know" upcoming Queens New York based sing-jay Kranium moved from anonymity onto international dancehall reggae play lists, the US charts and now, a major label.

"Nobody Has To Know" sold 29,000 copies in 2014, peaking at no. 32 on the Reggae Digital Songs chart, also reaching the Next Big Sound and Twitter Emerging Artists charts while its video has generated upwards of 10 million YouTube views. His second single "Lifestyle" has sold more than 8,000 copies. Kranium ended his successful year by signing a multiple album, global 360-deal (excluding the Caribbean) with Atlantic Records on Dec. 22.

"I am always thrilled when I can identify another artist that will be a great addition to our roster. Kranium is a very talented writer, is stylistically fresh, has a unique vocal tone and I am really excited to be back in the reggae business, working with a brand new, young artist," Atlantic president/CEO Craig Kallman told Billboard.

Kallman has signed several reggae and dancehall acts to the label including silky crooner Wayne Wonder, deejay (i.e. Jamaican rapper) Elephant Man and Grammy Award winner Sean Paul who released two RIAA certified platinum albums ("Dutty Rock" and "The Trinity") and topped the Hot 100 three times with "Get Busy", "Baby Boy" (with Beyonce) and "Temperature" throughout his 12 years with Atlantic. 

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Kranium, 24, born Kemar Donaldson in Montego Bay, Jamaica, has resided in the US since 2005, first settling in Miami where he was mentored in music by his uncle, dancehall singer Screwdriver. While attending high school in Queens, Kranium and his support team Suga and Tyson, networked at local clubs and parties attempting to get his music played. Now, with his Atlantic deal, the self-described reggae-fusion sing-jay intends to build upon the accomplishments of Sean Paul, Shaggy, Shabba Ranks and other Jamaican acts that have generated widespread attention and significant sales for the dancehall genre. 

"My signing is a good look for dancehall, which should be bigger than it is. I am motivated to take dancehall to another level and extremely happy to be a part of the Atlantic family because of the support they've given to reggae," Kranium told Billboard.

"Nobody Has to Know," produced by New York-based Jamaican Lamar "LMR" Reynolds, was initially released in late 2013 on Frequent Flyer Records, the label established by Kranium and his management, Queens based veteran sound system selector Patrick "Pee Wee" Bonsu and London-based Pierre Bost who is also part of the management for the rapidly rising Jamaican reggae star Chronixx. "Nobody Has to Know" was first brought to Kallman's attention by Latoya Lee, director of worldwide urban A&R, Warner Music Group; a meeting took place between the artist, his management and Kallman but a deal never materialized.

Meanwhile, Kranium signed a publishing contract with BMG and through a contact there, his management met independent music consultant Jules Dougall. Dougall reintroduced "Nobody Has To Know" to Kallman in September 2014, which led to Kranium's December signing. 

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Kranium's first Atlantic release will be a remix of "Nobody Has to Know" targeted for summer 2015. "The remix will take the record beyond the core dancehall market that initially embraced it; while we are working that, we will put a release date on an EP and then an album, working closely with Atlantic to make this a successful joint venture for all parties," commented Pee Wee. 

Kallman says LMR and Brooklyn's Ricky Blaze (whose hits include Gyptian's RIAA certified gold single "Hold Yuh") will provide the core production for Kranium's debut album. With Atlantic's marketing and promotional strength, Kranium's management envisions bigger sales, greater chart presence and major radio rotation, which eluded "Nobody Has To Know".

"We didn't reach the Top 200, although the single did sell 900 copies in one week-because we didn't get major station play, which could have jumped the numbers," notes Bost. "We did everything independently and we were confident someone would come on board with us; now with Atlantic, we are working towards increasing those numbers because Kranium has the songs, the producers, the attitude, everything that it takes to reach there."