Get Money: Rising Reggae Fusionist Runkus Kicks Financial Game

Paley Martin explores the themes of the Jamaican artist's recent single.
By    August 22, 2019

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Paley Martin knows a thing or two about woodwind instruments.

For Jamaican artist Runkus, the concept of money is black and white; you either use it or abuse it. In his latest single, Runkus speaks to the population’s percentage subjected to the wealthy 1%.

The song’s video, co-directed by Protoje’s creative director Yannick Reid, was filmed in Runkus’s hometown of Portmore, Jamaica, amongst friends, family, and fellow artists. Interspersed between scenes are hidden messages that offer up advice on how to build and manage money. Everything from small scale, local tips like where to find cheap gas in Jamaica to concepts like buying versus renting and, of course, having musicians own their masters makes a flash appearance onscreen. There’s an urgency to the messages and a universality that extends beyond any island or city.

Runkus incorporates conscious messaging in his music and has mastered an eclectic style that fluctuates between reggae, hip-hop, and R&B — and not to mention, equally intellectual and free spirited. In “99%,” the lead single off of his forthcoming album, all of these elements come together. “I needed a song you could immediately react to,” Runkus says. “What I’m saying…it’s provocative.”

“99%” reflects on the financial lessons that Runkus has learned thus far in his personal and professional life. “I don’t think the best thing to do is to spend all of your life trying to chase money and not understand the use of it,” Runkus says. As a musician, he learned the business ropes from his father, reggae artist Determine. “Every great thing that he did and every mistake that he made, I learned from,” Runkus says. “Also, just because I was around it doesn’t mean that I had to learn it. I have made my fair share of mistakes as well.”

Mistakes or not, watching what he did and didn’t want from older generations made a lasting impact on Runkus. This also meant questioning the ideals that were often coupled with success and recognizing its facade — especially in the case of established artists. “Everyone shows bottles in the club they never open and renting [expensive] cars and stuff like that,” he says. “That’s not my spirit or my personality.” Instead of hoarding wealth, Runkus promotes the power of saving and sharing.

Sharing with one’s community is an overlying theme of the “99%” video — both in front of and behind the scenes. After the initial director of the video was a no-show, Runkus resorted to his resources with the aim of wrapping up the shoot by day’s end. “Yannick [Reid] just had everything on him,” Runkus says of his aforementioned co-director. “He just looked at me and said, ‘Bro let’s do it.’” With some improvisation mixed with creative manpower, they pulled “99%” together. “My team really really did a great production. They came through on a whim,” he confesses.

Featured in the video is an important cast of artists in Jamaica as well as Runkus’s family and local kids in the neighborhood who call him Uncle. From Runkus’s frequent collaborator, singer and rapper, Royal Blu, to producer J.L.L., DJ and producer Stamma, the song’s producers Kone and Iotosh, Runkus’s manager and producer Smartkid, and the video’s assistant producer Wengi Kofia, amongst others, “99%” is a visual that practices the grounded mentality it preaches. “Let’s just be with friends and family and vibes and let people take something from this,” Runkus says.

In “99%,” Runkus quite literally brings his concept home. As he moves towards his forthcoming album, he comes armored with a community, creative vision, and wealth of knowledge that outweighs any stack of paper. But of course, when the stacks come rolling in, he’ll know what to do with those too.

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