SF Chronicle: Fantastic Negrito Wins Another Grammy Celebrates with Party in Oakland
On the corner of 32nd Street and San Pablo Avenue in West Oakland, a small homeless encampment stretches along the edge of a parking lot of a building that used to be a seedy liquor store in the neighborhood where blues musician Xavier Dphrepaulezz, best known as Fantastic Negrito, grew up.
Today, that building now houses a recording studio and Dphrepaulezz’s new label, Storefront Records. And by noon Sunday, March 14, the parking lot was staged for a community-driven event with about 75 of the artist’s friends, family and industry colleagues — plus Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf — watching the 63rd Grammy Awards telecast with bated breath as the album, “Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?” earned Dphrepaulezz another Grammy Award for best contemporary blues album.
The Journal of Roots Music: No Depression
August 12, 2020
"Healer, entertainer, shaman, funkateer, and prophet, Fantastic Negrito is a demon-chasing, street-wise preacher who delivers the goods with funk and soul and a big dose of social consciousness to help us all get through these troubled times."
Rolling Stones: "Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?"
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"Modern electric blues as Prince and George Clinton would have it."
"There's something very sick and wrong with a state-sanctioned police force that arbitrarily murders people disproportionately," Dphrepaulezz tells GRAMMY.com in a recent interview. "I feel that there has to be a significant movement against this and something that's tangible that people will be able to hold onto after this is all said and done and quiets down. I think Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? is completely in step with our current situation because people—yes, they have lost their mind. They expressed it in the streets, and as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, 'Rioting is the voice of the unheard."
“I’m saying how long are you going to buy this shit? It’s easy to kill this brother because you’ve dehumanized him. That’s who I’m singing to in this song. Because he’s the perpetrator of the crime. … There are good police officers and I’m not going to become the evil that I rally against. I’m not going to become the destruction that I oppose. ... But artists have to speak the truth. Are we enraged? Yes. Are we fed the fuck up? Yes, we’re fed up. Are we hurt? Yes, we are crushed. OK, now what’s next? What do we do with that?"
“There’s so much we can do with it. You have power. I have power. Every one of us has power. Every one of us is a part, and all these parts can have power. I can reach across the aisle and make a friend. We have so much power but we’re made – made – to feel like we are powerless. The first thing we have to do is acknowledge it. The same way that you have to acknowledge white privilege. Or the same way I have to acknowledge my bullshit. It’s how you begin to heal. The same way people have got to acknowledge we have to stop living in a culture of victimization and instead acknowledge our power. It is vast and it is deep. And it is healing.
"Every day that we wake up, we’re decision-makers. If every one of us says, “You know what, I’m gonna be honest to these people. You know what, I’m not gonna think of just myself. You know what, I’m gonna look this person in the eye. You know what, I’m gonna start a conversation with this person. You know what, I’m gonna live my life a little bit for other people and not just think about how everything should benefit me.” Because we are trained in this society to just be, like, “Me, me.” And now even more with social media it’s like [Negrito pulls out his phone and pretends to scroll through it], “Me, my account, my Facebook, my Twitter, my likes.”
“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.”
After a major record deal in the 1990’s — and a near-fatal car accident that left him in a month-long coma — Xavier stepped away from music, and spent his days growing cannabis. He came back to it by way of his idea for a man and his guitar as a superhero-type origin story. That’s when he hit the streets. That’s when Fantastic Negrito was born. The long hours of busking on the sidewalks of Oakland and the subsequent self-titled album that followed set him up for an early 2015 breakthrough via NPR’s Tiny Desk performance series.
"As far as the audience, my audience, they’re a strange tribe. They’re all over the world. They’re kinda scattered. They’re their own tribe, so they vary. My audience continues to be eclectic and they always find a way."
“If I had a grant, I wouldn’t shut my studio down. I’d load my shotgun up with producers, musicians, beat makers, make my dream happen, which is Motown in Oaktown. It can happen. We can do it.”
"Oakland singer/songwriter/musician Fantastic Negrito is more than a humongous talent with an old-world R&B voice and a contemporary sensibility. . . After asking friends and followers what they were doing to kill time while home-sheltering, he turned their responses into one of the most appealing videos you’ll ever see."
"After running away from home and hustling through music school, a car crash derailed the dreams of Xavier Dphrepaulezz. Then, at the age of 45, he reinvented himself as Fantastic Negrito to Grammy-winning acclaim. Now all he wants to do is save the world."
"Fantastic Negrito - Please Don't Be Dead (2018) Por Gabriel Sacramento Que discaço! Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz, o Fantastic Negrito, quase desistiu da música várias vezes devido a uma vida difícil, que parecia jogar contra ele e contra seu sonho."
"Music is medicine for the soul," declared the singer who performs as Fantastic Negrito, eagerly prowling a stage on Sunday with a revivalist's fury leading into the final hours of Arroyo Seco Weekend in Pasadena. There were bigger names at the Goldenvoice-presented festival, now in its second year, than the artist born Xavier Amin Dhprepaulezz, but the crowd was right there with him.
"Probabilmente non reggerei un minuto della vita di Xavier Dphrepaulezz senza mettermi a piangere. Invece Xavier Dphrepaulezz è uno che ha vissuto dieci vite di Xavier Dphrepaulezz, ed è arrivato a cinquant'anni in splendida forma."
"When Oakland's Fantastic Negrito won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2017, for his debut LP The Last Days of Oakland, he didn't celebrate at a private party, surrounded by the Los Angeles music industry. No, he took his Grammy down to the local train station and busked, as he has done for years."
"Take that bullshit / Turn it into good shit." The triumphant reinvention of Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz as Fantastic Negrito is one of the very few, if not only, 3rd acts in rock. After a twice-sidelined solo career, once by the coma that gives Please Don't Be Dead its album cover, Dphrepaulezz came roaring back in 2014 as one ..."
"Fantastic Negrito, "Please Don't Be Dead" (Blackball Universe/Cooking Vinyl) Fantastic Negrito has an incredible, inspiring backstory but it would be a shame to unwittingly allow it to overshadow the issue at hand, the truly fantastic blend of blues, funk, rock and R&B created on "Please Don't Be Dead" by the man born Xavier Dphrepaulezz."
"Fantastic Negrito's crunchy take on blues and R&B channels the paranoia and despair of present-day American life, and on new song "The Duffler" the results are as sinister as ever. The soon-to-be-released LP from Fantastic Negrito, Please Don't Be Dead, is front man Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz's plea to his country, one where he fears for the future and the safety of his children."
"On his Grammy-winning 2016 debut album, "The Last Days of Oakland," Fantastic Negrito recorded his observations of Oakland's working class, festering away in poverty and under the constant threat of drug addiction and gun violence."
"Sur le visuel de ce nouvel album, il apparaît abattu, rompu, le regard vide, le bras gauche et le poignet droit dans le plâtre, et avec en suppression, un bracelet d'hôpital annonçant, en plus de ce Please Don't Be Dead en guise de titre dudit album, une date d'admission : 25 novembre 1999."
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