Fantastic Negrito: The Last Days of Oakland

review negrito x1 cong

Xavier Dphrepaulezz (pronounced De-Frepple-Ez) is about the most interesting musician you could come across, and now he’s got a successful enough album that it’s out on a major label, after an initial release a year ago.

Last Days is out on Cooking Vinyl, after coming out on Fantastic Negrito’s own Blackball Universe. The UK label is re-issuing the album, a recipient of a best contemporary blues album Grammy, with two new additional tracks, ahead of a European tour.

Dphrepaulezz was born in western Massachusetts, the eighth of 14 kids in a strict religious family. His Oxford-educated Somalian father ran a restaurant — his dad was born in 1905 so he has a brother who is older than his mother. He didn’t start playing until he was an adult, when he posed as a student at UC Berkeley to get access to pianos. He’s now a multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, vocals, keys and drums.

In his younger days, Prince’s manager Joe Ruffalo helped land him a $1m contract and he was opening for acts such as De La Soul, but the money killed off his creativity.

In 2000, he went out one day and “woke up three weeks later with a beard” after being hit by a drunk driver. He almost lost his hand, which he now calls “the claw” because he can’t move it much. When he wants to play, he puts it in the right position “and just hacks away”. You can’t tell.

The Last Days of Oakland is about how change is inevitable but a good thing. The Oakland of his youth is gone — the Oakland of crack, poverty and artists — and replaced by something else.

The music is as good as you might hope: it’s blues but blues that mixes slick modern rock/blues with the original blues feel — and plenty of fluid guitar solos, claw or no claw — and combines funk, a bit of rap and some rock ‘n’ roll.

Dphrepaulezz has lived a life, and he’s got soul.



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