Kemar Donaldson couldn’t have picked a better alias for his musical pursuits—as Kranium, he specializes in the sort of pop-friendly dancehall songs that get instantly lodged there. Hailing from Montego Bay, Donaldson was born in 1991 with dancehall in his blood: His uncle, Dalton Lindo, scored a string of hits in Jamaica in the ’80s and ’90s as Screwdriver, and taught the young Donaldson the ways of the mic. After spending his teens in Miami, Donaldson continued his northward migration to Queens, where he immersed himself in the local dancehall scene. As fellow Jamaicans like Popcaan and Vybz Kartel were infiltrating the American rap and R&B mainstream, Donaldson joined the party with Kranium’s 2013 debut single, “Nobody Has to Know.” With its breezy beat and blissed-out vibe, the song was an international hit that positioned Kranium as dancehall’s suavest—and horniest—loverman, exuding an angelic grace even when he’s dropping lewd lines like “Baby, take off your drawers.” It also made him one of the era’s few dancehall artists to land a major American record deal. With Atlantic Records in his corner, Kranium’s crossover campaign has continued apace: 2016’s synth-smeared seducer “We Can” received an extra dollop of smoothness thanks to Tory Lanez’s buttery guest verses, while 2017’s “Can’t Believe” presented a global club-pop communion with R&B titan Ty Dolla $ign and Afrobeats phenom Wizkid. Speaking to Apple Music upon the release of his sultry 2020 slow jam “Gal Policy,” Kranium shared his approach to life. “Just be free, be happy, and, most importantly, be grateful,” he said—a fitting philosophy for an artist who’s built his brand by delivering the crass with class.
HOMETOWNMontego Bay, Jamaica