There is desperation and urgency in Fantastic Negrito's new album Please Don't Be Dead. For anyone who ever felt like it was over yet hoped it wasn’t, this is your music.
“I wrote this album because I fear for the life of my black son,” said Negrito. “I fear for the lives of my daughters. I am uncertain about what kind of future they will face. Will someone shoot up their school? Will they become addicted to prescription pills? Will they wind up on the street, sleeping under freeways and overpasses? Will the police murder my son? I came up with the name Please Don’t Be Dead because I felt like we’d lost our way as a society — and I know what happens when you chase the wrong things. It’s the story of my life.”
Please Don't Be Dead – which follows 2016’s Grammy Award-winning The Last Days Of Oakland – is heralded by the lead track, ‘Plastic Hamburgers’, out now.
“With 'Plastic Hamburgers' I wanted to come out swinging,” added Negrito. “With everything happening in the world, I wanted to take it head on. Addiction, guns, censorship, over-consumption. I wanted people to feel like this is our song, our rallying cry: lets tear down the walls that separate us and face who we really are.”
Fantastic Negrito – a.k.a. musician Xavier Dphrepaulezz (pronounced Deh-frep-aw-lez) – is truly an artist for these times, a multi-talented, genre-agnostic original whose life and work embody the struggle, energy, truth and creativity of black music. Negrito was raised in an orthodox Muslim household, the eighth of 14 children of a deeply religious Somali-Caribbean immigrant. The family moved from western Massachusetts to Oakland, CA, when Negrito was just 12 years old, his new hometown’s vibrant black community providing a massive culture shock after what was an extremely conservative childhood.
Raised by the streets of Oakland, Negrito discovered a passion for music and by the time he was 20, had taught himself a range of instruments. Sensing that he was on the wrong path and fearing for his life, he knew he had to make a change so, armed with only his demo on cassette, he moved to Los Angeles where he eventually signed a million dollar major record label deal. Alas, his soulful music was not made for those times and his debut album – released under his own name – went largely unnoticed. His confidence shattered, he pondered his next move.
Tragically, fate intervened in 2000 when he suffered a near-fatal car accident that not only left him in a three-week coma, but also saw permanent damage to his playing hand. He fought hard, enduring hours of painful physical therapy, and in 2008, returned to Oakland where he embarked on a new life as an urban farmer growing vegetables and other, more profitable, green matter.
The birth of his son inspired Negrito to once again pick up his guitar, and encouraged by his childhood friend, co-founder/co-owner of artist collective Blackball Universe, and Empire writer/producer Malcolm Spellman, Negrito began exploring the roots of black music, ultimately winding back to the original source, the DNA of all American music: the blues. But rather than simply updating the Delta blues, Fantastic Negrito created something altogether new and unique, building bridges to the 21st century by weaving the original sounds of Lead Belly and Skip James with loops and samples of his own live instruments.
Dubbing himself Fantastic Negrito, he took to the streets once more, to test his songs and sharpen his message. Bay Area shows with a proper band followed and in 2015, he entered and won NPR’s inaugural Tiny Desk Concert contest, triumphing over 7,000 other entrants. In 2016, he self-produced and self-released the debut Fantastic Negrito album, The Last Days Of Oakland, which scaled unimaginable heights, eventually going on to earn the aforementioned Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album and ecstatic praise around the globe.
PREVIOUS PRAISE FOR FANTASTIC NEGRITO
“Fantastic Negrito was, well, fantastic. …a brilliant, natural showman – the kind that take audiences out of their comfort zone and define festivals [with] the kind of backstory legends are made of” – The Guardian
“The first great album of the post-Prince/post-Ali world… Tremendous” – Daily Mirror
“Compelling” – Uncut
“A major work of stunning breadth and originality, heralding a talent who shines a blinding white light in the post-Prince darkness” – Classic Rock
“Updating the blues for a new era of depression and dispossession… this Leadbelly-reborn shares with His Late Purpleness a dapper style, enterprising ethos, eclectic tastes and a strong sense of himself as a black artist.” – MOJO
“Incredible… Enough to bring a smile to the faces of both Robert Johnson and Prince” – fRoots
“One of the hottest talents on the blues scene” – Songlines
“…full to bursting with catchy modern music that shimmers with a blues-rooted background.” – Blues Matters
“Xavier Dphrepaulezz’s life story is just begging to be made into a biopic” – Metro
Fantastic Negrito has spent much of the past two years on the road, including sold out headline shows, stage-stealing festival performances, and a series on North American and European tours supporting his great supporter and friend, the late Chris Cornell as well as Cornell’s legendary supergroup Temple of the Dog. He also opened for Sturgill Simpson and many others.
Fantastic Negrito will tour Europe in May and June, including five UK dates, before returning to the US for an album release event at the historic Fillmore in San Francisco. For updates and more, please visit www.fantasticnegrito.com/tour
15th – Barcelona, Apollo
16th – Valencia, La Rambleta
17th – Madrid, Caracol
19th – Ibiza, Sueños De Libertad
23rd – Nottingham, Bodega
24th – Manchester, Night & Day
26th – Baden, Blues Festival
30th – Glasgow, King Tuts
1st – London, Dingwalls
2nd – Bristol, Thekla
6th – Milan, Hello Folks Festival
7th – Bologna, Covo Summer Festival
8th – Rome, Monk Club
8th – Winchester, Boomtown Fair