Joel Culpepper might just be London’s answer to Frank Ocean on Afraid To Be King

Joel Culpepper embraces his vulnerabilities in the new video for Afraid To Be King.

1 year agoText by


For all the talent in the UK, from grime to neo-RnB to whatever post-PC Music is being crafted in the warehouses of east London, Britain has never produced a Prince. We’ve never had a Dalston D’Angelo or a Manchester Marvin Gaye, to paraphrase The Clash; “Frank Ocean, he never lived round ‘ere”. Cast your mind back through our island’s musical history and the closest thing you’ll find to the soul and RnB icons of the US is Tom Jones or like, Lemar (to be clear I’m talking strictly about the men, whether it’s Shirley Bassey, Amy Winehouse or Adele, there’s no shortage of powerfully voiced women.)

Enter Joel Culpepper, the South London singer already drawing comparisons to Frank Ocean and the purple one himself. His new single ‘Afraid To Be King’ has been championed by Giles Peterson and the rest of Radio 6 and showcases a voice and nuance that rivals any of the American greats. Balancing tenderness and masculinity with the poise of Frank, Culpepper exposes his vulnerabilities to the listener while simultaneously declaring “I’m not afraid to be king” in haunting falsetto.

The accompanying video, premiering today on Notion, sees the singer wandering a bleak coast, his shock of silver hair mimicking the greys and whites of the landscape around him. Stark shots of the coast contrast with those of Joel up to his waist in the sea, defiant and alone; still in his jeans he looks equally as if he’s about to be baptised or walk further into the cold embrace of the water. Watch the video below.

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