Sunday, October 9, 2016

Fantastic Negrito at the Mercury Lounge

Xavier Dphrepaulezz (pronounced “dee-FREP-ah-lez”) was born in western Massachusetts, the eighth of 15 children. When Dphrepaulezz was 12 years old, his family moved to Oakland, California, where he entered foster care and joined the world of street gangs, guns, drug dealing and home invasions. Looking for a way out at age 18, Dphrepaulezz posed as a student to access a college's practice rooms and taught himself to play piano by copying the scales that others were practicing. Shortly thereafter, Dphrepaulezz began writing songs and playing guitar. One day, at age 20, after purchasing arms, he himself was robbed by armed thieves. The next day he hitchhiked to Los Angeles with $100 and a keyboard, looking to start a career in music. In 1996 he had a neo-soul debut album that went nowhere. He played briefly in several bands but gave up shortly after a near-fatal automobile accident in 1999 put him in a three-week coma. He returned to Oakland in 2008, where he started a family and worked a quarter-acre farm. Eventually he started playing music again, busked in Oakland and San Francisco and rebirthed himself as a neo-blues musician renamed Fantastic Negrito. After a debut UP in 2014, Fantastic Negrito's debut album, The Last Days of Oakland, was released on June 3, 2016,

Countless musicians have joined rock and blues, but Fantastic Negrito gave this marriage a new twist tonight at the Mercury Lounge. He did this by bridging the blues of the Lead Belly and Muddy Waters variety with other root sources, including plantation songs, and also the more modern styles of funk, punk, soul and hip hop. As such, the set was eclectic, but Negrito's soul and spirit were the threads that stitched the tapestry together. His authenticity came not only from his musical creativity, but because his new-found identity came armed with a message and a meaning. Yes, his songs were laced with reflective insights on love and relationships, but he also sang about experiences and misfortunes with poverty, racism and societal disenfranchisement. His life passages informed and graced his blues with riveting passion. Negrito's performance was a strong and revelatory bugle for our times.

Visit Fantastic Negrito at