Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! In commemoration of nonviolent protest, overcoming societal struggles, community engagement, and voicing our dreams, today we’re putting the focus on Fantastic Negrito. Born just 74 days before Dr. King’s assassination, Xavier Dphrepaulezz spent his teens witnessing Black oppression firsthand while selling drugs and toting guns in Oakland at the onset of the ’80s crack epidemic. It wasn’t until listening to Prince’s Dirty Mind and learning of his autodidact status that Xavier decided to zero in on artistry, skip formal enrollment, and eventually sit in on Berkeley music classes.
Three years after the release of his 1996 mononymous Interscope debut The X Factor, a car crash left Xavier in a three-week coma. Once Interscope severed their ties, Xavier, fully recovered or not, slipped back into the street mentality and opened an off-the-books club in South Central L.A.. If the story stopped here, Dr. King would’ve chided it as a cautionary tale. But in 2014, Xavier returned to the songwriting realm with “black roots music for everyone” on Fantastic Negrito.
Since then, Fantastic Negrito’s released four additional full-lengths, three of which garnered Grammys for “Best Contemporary Blues Album”. Most recently, Fantastic Negrito’s fanned enthusiasm for Grandfather Courage, an all-acoustic reimagining of last year’s White Jesus Black Problems that drops on February 3rd. In a way Grandfather Courage continues King’s legacy by retelling stories on behalf of our elders and introducing their discourses to a new generation of dreamers. Hear for yourself on the record’s lead single, a stripped-down rework of “Highest Bidder”.