London’s own Joel Culpepper has released the newest single from his forthcoming debut LP Sgt. Culpepper, the spritely and powerful ‘Black Boy’.
“I feel there have been so many important songs that address black men,” Culpepper explained, “But I wanted to hear a song that universally celebrated being a black lad with an upbeat Minnie Riperton vibe. When I was writing I kept going back to this one memory of a boy I worked with, just this one morning when he was running late, bowling through the playground with such a confidence and an air about him. He had his older sister’s leopard-print coat, a pink lunchbox, these ankle-swinger trousers with no socks on. Some of the kids were saying stuff, but he was just head forward, bowling through, didn’t care.”
That “upbeat Minnie Ripperton vibe” is about as summery and funky as you get, filled to the brim with an easy flow, harmonies stacked to high heaven, and an absolutely infectious energy. As the sonic elements keep slipping and sliding around each other, Culpepper unleashes a series of increasingly rousing vocal lines, culminating in a falsetto run that can send shivers through you.
“I’ll never forget me turning around to the other teachers and them going ‘he’s got it, int he?’ Like fair play mate, you’ve sussed out life. That lived with me; we spend our whole adulthoods trying to find ways to be that uninhibited, and he’d cracked it at 10 years old. I just wanted him to have that message, and kept thinking, I don’t just want to be the guy that just spoke about doing music – I want those kids to see me doing it.”
Confidence is key, after all. The idea that a young kid who doesn’t explicitly know any better is radiating so much infectious self-confidence that it can inspire the older guard isn’t a topic all the common in pop music, but here it works in wonderfully compelling ways. You don’t have to take away any kind of message to enjoy ‘Black Boy’, but to do so would be a disservice to the kind of love and care that Culpepper put into its composition. It’s a celebratory song, so let’s celebrate it.
Listen to ‘Black Boy’ down below. Sgt. Culpepper will be released on July 23.