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N3ptune is ready to take you to church.
Coming off of performances at Underground Music Showcase and MCing Denver Fashion Week 2021, the 24-year-old Denver native is releasing his debut album, Renaissance, on December 10. Recorded with Mile High City producer Rusty Steve, N3ptune (pronounced “Neptune”) hopes the album will serve as his introduction to the masses.
His formative creative years, however, were anything but typical. “I remember being a kid and sitting in church, and hearing certain parts of the songs, and in my head, I was like, You need to go back here, that way everyone can feel it more,” N3ptune says, holding his hands out as if he were conduct an invisible choir in front of him. “I would sit there and rearrange. I was reproducing songs in my head at four years old.”
While it took him years to realize exactly how to harness that spirit moving through him—and though he would later leave the religious community he’d grown up in as it became more unaccepting of him—N3ptune says he was always destined to be an artist. It was the spiritual roots, planted during his childhood in the church, that evolved into the singer’s signature style—one that’s been pushing boundaries since he began writing and producing his own music in the Green Valley Ranch public library off a loaner computer in the 10th grade.
Renaissance blurs genres, like pop, hip hop, electronica, and soul, with raw vocals that harks back to N3ptune’s time growing up in the church. “It comes so naturally because it was literally ingrained in my subconscious. Gospel, Blues, R&B, Soul,” he says. “That all is really woven into the melodies of what I do.”
And while N3ptune’s vocal and stage presence displays an uncanny charisma, he says he had to grow into that confidence after being raised in a home where he says he wasn’t allowed to truly express himself—where he was reprimanded for wearing fake flowers in his hair and had to surreptitiously listen to popular artists like Beyoncé.
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“Being raised having to assimilate all the time, it was how I just went about things—especially as somebody who’s Black and androgynous,” he says. “Black queer people—we’re supposed to be the entertainment in the room. We’re supposed to be the ones who break the ice, we’re supposed to be the ones to set the tone, or be the sassy one. I don’t really identify with a lot of shit like that, but I did feel a lot of those pressures [before]. Now—especially in the past couple months—it’s been more like, ‘I don’t owe nobody nothing.’ ”
That sense of discovery and transformation has also found its way into the material. Many of the tracks are based off of moments of reckoning he had over the past year. For example, the track “Thank Heavens” was written two days after a suicide attempt this spring. “It’s not something that I’ve moved past from yet,” he says. “Everything that you hear on this album are emotions I’m still experiencing, realities I’m still living.”
But people are taking notice. “The fun thing about N3ptune is that he has a very bold sound, bold look, and a very strong calling,” says Kori Hazel, manager of the Denver talent agency Future Garden, which signed N3ptune this past fall. “He’s also much different than what Denver already has. So there are a lot of opportunities to build someone that Denver hasn’t seen before.”
N3ptune has already booked several upcoming national tours into 2022, opening for the likes of Wycleaf Jean and Sleigh Bells, teasing more plans to be announced. In the meantime, he’s promoting his album and displaying the signature bravado that’s already brought him this far.
“My goal is to be one of the greatest artists—I will be one of the greatest artists—of all time,” he says. “[I want] to go down in history and be recognized as one of the greats; cutting edge; something we’ve never seen.”
(Read more: Meet the Entrepreneurs Taking Denver’s Music Industry to the Next Level)