Born and raised in South East London, Joel Culpepper has been working on his music for as long as he can remember. Hip Hop/Soul is the type of genre you would fit him in, although he gravitates more towards ‘alternative’ and ‘anything that is heartfelt’.
The emerging singer/songwriter put out his first mixtape The Adventures of Pensmith in 2009, a 15-track project written and produced in two weeks with producer Kay Young, then in February followed up with tribute mixtape Joel Culpepper meets J Dilla, mixed by DJ Big Ted, to positive feedback sparking likenings to Andre 3000, Mos Def and Omar [“He’s been a major influence of mine, growing up listening to his music”].
Culpepper believes his music’s sincerity will make him stand out in today’s competitive industry. “I think a lot of artists make decisions and moves based on a lot of factors that are not necessarily about sincerity. I think for me, what I hope stands out is that the audience know I mean it. I believe in what I am singing about and love what I’m doing and am enjoying myself. Hopefully people can enjoy it with me. It is my reality show.”
The new series of The X Factor has recently come on air in the UK and can generate huge exposure for the contestants. That said, it is not something that Joel would ever consider; he feels the show is designed for entertainment value, and sometimes the focus is too much on the judges rather than the artists. And he has a valid point. “The show can provide a platform, but then it also can come with a shelf life. I’m pleased that JLS are doing it. I can’t say that I would buy their music, but they seem like genuine guys who are doing well, and yet they didn’t win. Everyone loves an underdog.”
On the cards for the rest of 2011, as well as the release of the EP I Love Ginger Beer, is a university tour. Joel expresses his excitement for the tour, as the production is reflective of his journey over the past two years. Working towards a higher platform for his music, Joel shows devotion and passion to his projects and it is clear, and admirable, that he would not change his vibe in order to ‘crossover’.
“I want to do music I love,” he states. “I want to do music I respect, and I think that as long as those principles are in line then I can sort of adapt to anything.”
He adds, “You’ve still got to be you. You can’t conform to the point where you are not recognisable anymore. I’m not interested in selling out; I think you lose in the long run.”
Our UK charts are currently dominated by homegrown artists, and Joel agrees that this is because they are creating new sounds. “Once we’re comfortable doing us, I think we’ve got something to give to the world. When we try to emulate something that we’re not, we have to play catch up.”
His latest endeavour, a Blackmale Beats-produced EP titled I Love Ginger Beer, is due for release later this year.