He’s been compared to Frank Ocean, Andre 3000 and even Prince, but Joel Culpepper is in a lane of his own, and most certainly flying the flag for alt-R&B in the UK.
Earlier this year, Culpepper released his sophomore EP ‘Tortoise’, a name inspired by the classic Aesop’s Fable. The 8 track EP sees the alternative RnB singer seamlessly swap between 60’s and 70’s inspired, to contemporary electronic R&B and hip-hop creating a sound that he’s aptly called ‘retrofuturist’. As a listener, you’re taken on a journey, much like the race of the Tortoise and the Hare.
In Culpepper’s second offering from ‘Tortoise’, 4 minutes and 39 seconds of pure nostalgia produced by Roy Davis JR, are served up in ‘Afraid to be King’. The psychedelic guitars paired with the sweeping string melody is complimented by Culpepper’s silky smooth voice. The visuals to accompany this track is simple yet strong. Shot in Whitstable, the video depicts an almost-haunted Culpepper roaming a deserted coastal line, culminating in him half-immersed in the water.
“I wanted somewhere desolate and bare to shoot the video” Culpepper tells us. “A mate Eddie lives on the coast in Whitstable and myself and the director Abi Moore went down there. It was perfect man. The song represents being mostly afraid of your own greatness. The sea has often intimidated me, just because of what it’s capable of. I wanted to show a confrontation and ultimately acceptance. I think we got the feeling right.”
While his music is rich with sweeping crescendos and orchestral arrangements, Culpepper has a distinct way of describing his sound. “The sound is about melody with slight melancholy. I wanna make the music that you hear in the elevator and say “what’s that” in a good way.”
You can be assured that this won’t be the last time you hear Joel Culpepper, even if it isn’t in an elevator. Check out the visuals for ‘Afraid to be King’ above and below;