Album review: Fantastic Negrito – The Last Days Of Oakland

Fantastic Negrito

Fantastic Negrito - Credit: Archant

A buzzing, broad and exciting ‘debut’ from a multi-talented, blues-inspired musician for our times

Describing his sound as “black roots music for everyone”, Xavier Dphrepaulezz’s debut record as Fantastic Negrito had an inspiring genesis after an incredible life of ups and downs that all feed into its sound.

The rough’n’ready blues of Leadbelly and Skip Woods was his springboard, but the sounds of …Oakland take in R&B, ‘80s funk, gospel, jazz, roots and rock, mixed with the experiences of a young life making money from drugs and hustle on the streets, the promise of international success and a near-fatal car crash.

It won him a Grammy award earlier this year for Best Contemporary Blues Album and now it’s rereleased with two new tracks, just in time for his London gig next week.

For anyone yet to come across his record, it’s got a rare breadth, vitality and originality, shot through with an earthy, compelling energy.


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His version of blues classic In The Pines is stripped down and low-key, performed with a hushed restraint that serves only to amplify the pent-up contributions of gospel backing singers, Hammond organ and expressive electric guitar.

Push Back, one of the new tracks, has a brittle ‘80s feel to it, a pumping bassline and insistent piano raising his heart rate before he cracks with “stress… anxietyyyy”, but the heart of the record lies in the theatrically charged bluesy duet About A Bird and Scary Woman’s honky-tonk vibes.

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Rating: 4/5

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