Oakland’s Fantastic Negrito: ‘Great opportunities to just be a human being right now’

July 15, 2020

Fantastic Negrito  mental health coronavirus pandemic mask

Despite having to postpone his worldwide tour due to the coronavirus pandemic, the East Bay singer-songwriter Xavier Dphrepaulezz — best known as Fantastic Negrito — said he is busier than ever.

The dystopia of a Bay Area under quarantine has been a musically fruitful time, and a reset of sorts, for the two-time blues Grammy winner. He’s been getting ready for the release of his third album, “Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?”  — featuring collaborations with Bay Area rapper E-40 and New Orleans jazz-soul group Tank and the Bagas — which he made to illustrate the quieter manifestations of a world coping with a significant but silent crisis: mental health.

Then the coronavirus calamity struck, and the record felt even more fitting. 

“I can’t believe I wrote an album called ‘Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?’ because it’s just so aligned with the universe,” the 52-year-old musician told The Chronicle in a recent phone interview at his home in Oakland. “I really believe in this thing, that these things are sent to us … and I think that’s why we are here. That’s the mystery of life.”

He’s been coping with the changes and the uncertainty of the future through the everyday practice of connection. For instance, he and his children have been making little care packages and giving them to displaced people in Oakland. “We have a lot of really great opportunities to just be a human being right now, in this crisis,” Dphrepaulezz said. “I think we really find out who we are when we have to respond to something that is unfortunate, tragic and not to our liking.”

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