The rise and fall of esteemed SoundCloud rapper Xxxtentacion has seen a marketed increase in both his streaming statistics and the overall popularity of the notorious “SoundCloud rapper” motif. Whether or not the seemingly standardized face tattoos showcase their unmasked identity, being labeled a SoundCloud artist does not automatically equate to an infamous underground trap scene. Joe Alexander Shepherd has been thriving on the same online streaming site for years despite never releasing an official studio album. As a graduate of Paul McCartney’s revered Academy of Music, Shepherd’s incredible piano skills have mostly earned him licensing and collaboration deals, thus keeping him out of the spotlight. “Time” however, is Shepherd’s first attempt at branching out beyond SoundCloud. Officially labeled as his debut single, this and several other recycled SoundCloud tracks have finally made their way to a more widespread audience on the Spotify and Apple Music platforms. From a broadly strategic point of view, this move indicates Shepherd is moving away from licensing and towards a more consumer-facing plan of individuality.
The scattered lighting aesthetic in the live video for “Time” hints towards a Christmasy paradigm, though the the actual mood of Shepherd’s content expression and sleek finger movement suggest something a bit darker. With a name like “Time”, this live track hints at a somber uncertainty, constantly searching for a sense of assurance in a world unavoidable ambivalence. While the clock keeps ticking everyone other than Shepherd remains frozen, glued to the mesmerizing dance that his fingers have learned to perform over a lifetime of training.