Runkus is a Jamaican singer, deejay, MC, songwriter and producer, and one of the island’s most sought-after young talents. Blending the cultural gravitas of reggae and dancehall with the energy of trap and the intricate wordplay of classic hip-hop, his music is global in its perspective yet unmistakably Jamaican at its root. With the backing of Delicious Vinyl Island, the new Caribbean music imprint from iconic hip-hop label Delicious Vinyl, Runkus is set to reveal the fullness of his artistry with the upcoming album,
Born Romario Sebastian Anthony Bennett in Portmore, Jamaica, Runkus is the son of reggae artist Determine and booking agent Paula Francis. While most artists choose their stage name at the start of their career, he earned his before birth.
“When my mom was pregnant with me, I would give her a lot of trouble and a lady who lived nearby would rub my mom’s belly and say ‘runkus,’” the singer recalls. “I think she was trying to say ruckus. But here I am today: Runkus.”
Growing up in Portmore, Runkus was raised in the same fertile musical soil that produced Jamaican icons Vybz Kartel, Spice, Popcaan and Gyptian. His father introduced him to the teachings of Rastafari and the movements of the Jamaican reggae business at a young age, and the two began recording together when Runkus was just 7. When he was 15, they released a joint mixtape, Like Father Like Son.
Stepping out on his own, he formed the OldSkl Bond — a variation on “Old School Band” — and began performing locally, while releasing singles like “Victim” (2014) and “Run” (2015). The latter would also appear on Runkus’ debut EP,
- Move In
, released through Germany’s Oneness Records in 2016. The musically-diverse set was well received, helping build Runkus’ international following. He toured Europe in Summer 2016 and again in 2017, performing at major festivals like Rototom Sunsplash in Spain and Reggae Geel (Belgium), and England’s Boomtown Fair.
Aligning with Delicious Vinyl Island, he issued the revelatory “99%” in 2019. Striking a deft balance between serious business and lighthearted fun, the single was highlighted by prestigious media outlets Billboard and Complex for its astute observations on economics, while its bouncy trap beat heralded a new musical direction for the artist.
Beyond his own recordings, Runkus has contributed to works by some of reggae’s top names, in a diverse set of capacities; writer, producer, featured artist, recording engineer. His songwriting credits include “Truths & Rights” from Protoje’s Grammy-nominated
- A Matter of Time
, and releases from Ky-mani Marley; he co-produced two tracks on Jah9’s critically-acclaimed Note To Self. He’s featured on “Armageddon” from British reggae-punk outfit The Skints’ Swimming Lessons LP, which topped the Billboard reggae chart in 2019, and recently appeared alongside reggae icon Luciano on the latter’s latest album, The Answer. Runkus also works closely with rising Jamaican talents like Royal Blu, Ras-I and Iotosh— artists whom he considers close friends and peers. Koffee, arguably Jamaica’s fastest-rising music star in a generation, named Runkus as one of her inspirations in a recent interview with Billboard.
While Runkus’ music is rooted in reggae, his experiences have shaped a sound that’s borderless. “I was grown cultural so that means Rastafari, roots music, reggae, one-drop, dancehall and all that is natural to Jamaica is second nature to I,” Runkus explains. “However, I simply do music… They need to create a genre for my style of music and call it Runkus.”
The onset of the Covid-19 epidemic sent Runkus into a deep meditation on the state of the world, powering an electric surge of creativity. When a 24-hour lockdown was imposed on Portmore— in which no one was allowed to leave or enter, without special permission — he retreated into the studio of his manager, collaborator and neighbor, Smartkid, hunkering down to create the most provocative and challenging work of his career.
Runkus gathers these recordings on IN:SIDE, a 10-track LP that captures the anxiety and promise of life in the age of lockdown and isolation. Tracks like “TAN A YUH YAAD” and “THE MASK:2ND WAVE” vividly reflect the realities of this new world, creating a uniquely timely soundtrack for these unprecedented times. With “5Gs”, Runkus aligns with some of Jamaica’s top lyricists in Jesse Royal, Kabaka Pyramid, Royal Blu and Munga Honorable, who collectively deliver a blistering comment on technology and disinformation. Released ahead of the project in July, the video for “5Gs” has already racked up nearly 400,000 views on YouTube. “EVERYBODY GOING LIVE” (featuring Naomi Cowan) and “QUARANTINE SLIDE” engage themes of escapism, commenting on topics like social media obsession and interrupted love.
IN:SIDE will be released digitally on Jan. 15, 2021.