Toppa Top 20: LargeUp’s Artists to Watch For 2016

Runkus (Jamaica)

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Photo: Varun Baker

Runkus (pronounced Roon-koos) is a name we’ve heard coming up more and more over the last 12 months. If that talk has escaped you, it won’t for much longer. The son of ’90s-era dancehall artist Determine releases his debut EP, Move In, through Germany’s Oneness Records Feb. 5th, and it’s sure to further his candidacy as one of reggae’s brighest new stars. The seven-song set features “Run” — one of our favorite reggae singles of 2015 — and “Move Yuh Feet,” a playful ska single that hints at Runkus’ appeal as a showman and live performer. After leaving a strong impression with his performance at 56 Hope Road for Bob Marley’s 70th birthday last February, and ending 2015 on the road with Ky-mani Marley, you can probably expect to see him onstage in a town near you sometime soon. —Jesse Serwer

How would you describe your sound?

I try not to stay confined to genres or styles. I believe there is no box. Style-wise, I find I just do music. Being where I’m from, Jamaica, we are deeply rooted in reggae so even if we are not trying to do reggae it is a part of us, and we mix it with anything we hear and feel. Anything that the music needs.

Tell us a little bit about the place you come from…

I am from Portmore. Great musicians come from Portmore. You have Kartel, Anthony B. All of them stayed close, back in that time, and lived close to each other. Each one would be at each other’s house, and I would see them all the time. My family is from St. Mary, which is more rural. That is a second home. In St. Mary, you have Capleton, Josey Wales, you name it.

Tell us about the moment where you knew you had broken through as an artist…

I would say when I left high school and said, This is what I want to do. I was 19. I got into the only college I applied to, applied to University of Tampa. I went there to visit — you know, orientation — to see the atmosphere. When I left, I thought I wouldn’t be living my dream. It would be the smart thing to do. But sometimes the smart thing to do isn’t always the right thing to do.

Right then and there, I said “ yeah man, music.” considered myself as a musician. until Protoje, Chronixx, you name it. Protoje heard my music one time. He saw me onstage and [complemented me], and I said, People are hearing me, I must be doing something right.

What were your highlights in 2015?

Touring with Ky-mani Marley. We went all the way up to North Carolina, St. Louis, Atlanta. The whole year was really nice. And I went to Colombia, too, and did a show with Ky-Mani, and I had a chance to buck up with Jesse Royal, and some of my peers.

What should we expect to see and hear from you in 2016?

Everything, full stop. I have a project releasing called Move In with Oneness Records. “Move Yuh Feet” is the single; we are shooting a video in the coming weeks.

We are writing an album right now. The album is totally different. Major Label Music is my main producer, they are producing a lot of my tracks. And Bassic Records. Them normally do dancehall but when we link up, anything goes, musically. That is the beauty of how we do music. I will link up with producers and have a tune already, or a chord progression, and we will just get it all together. Like the old days — everybody making music together. The pure way.

What artists are you watching in 2016?

I can’t wait to hear Kanye’s album, honestly. There are some underground Jamaican musicians that are really cool like D Burnz, Blvck Hero. Dem I ah always looking out for, they are like my brothers. Also Royal Blu, is on the project as well. I am definitely not watching Royal Blu [laughs].

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