Have You Lost Your Mind yet?

Have You Lost Your Mind yet?

On his fourth LP, Fantastic Negrito wanted to draw attention to issues of mental illness from the perspective of both himself and the people he’s known all his life. “I noticed that most of the people that I thought were suffering from what I call mental challenges and hurdles, if you will, were just us regular people,” he tells Apple Music. “Not people walking down the street talking to themselves, but my friends, my family, my colleagues. We are facing the depression and the trauma of the gun violence that happens so much in America. And we take it in as if it's nothing.” After his politically charged 2018 LP Please Don’t Be Dead, the Oakland bluesman and two-time Grammy winner continues to explore societal concerns that are large in scale and scope. But this time, he focuses on the small details rather than looking at the big picture. “My records are always social commentary—but I wanted to go into that door and dig deep into that,” he says. “I wanted to take a therapeutic and accountable approach all in one and ask myself, 'What did we become that we just accept so many really tragic things that happen?'” His interpretation of the blues in Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? is eclectic and all-encompassing, taking on an uncompromising mix of Delta blues, classic R&B, roots music, and funk, especially. “A lot of this album was about the power and the energy of the ’70s—powerful songs one right after another that just don't let up,” Negrito says, as he walks us through this track-by-track guide. Chocolate Samurai “When I was confronting a lot of the issues of mental health and illness, I was talking about my fans on that one. The whole world is watching us. My community, my people, my teachers, my soldiers, my doctors, my lawyers, my policemen. All of us. And what does that do to our psyche? And that's why, in the video, I got people from all over the world to send in their clips and make an amazing video out of that. I was talking about my community during that song. Like, 'We have to get free tonight.' Get free from oppression. We have to get free from the construct of racism. We gotta get free from the idea that we're victims all the time, too. I was thinking very deep on that song. There was a lot about accountability. And celebration. All my songs are celebrations—even if they're all kind of anecdotal. There's a lot of Stevie Wonder in that song, too.” I’m So Happy I Cry (feat. Tank and the Bangas & Tarriona “Tank” Ball) “I wanted to make history and be the first two Tiny Desk winners [NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest] ever to collaborate on a song [referring to his collaboration with Tank and the Bangas]. The competition has been on for five years and no one has made a collaboration. But the song’s really about myself. You know, all the things that used to make me so high. And now it’s like, ‘Why don’t they get me high?’ Sometimes we have this hole in our life and we're just trying to fill it up with all this stuff, and a lot of it's from not wanting to confront who we are. I was reading about a lot of these young rappers, especially Juice WRLD and a lot of these young kids that are just dying from overdoses. I thought, you know what? Wow, it's not a real happiness. I have all this stuff, but it doesn't really fill me up and it doesn't fulfill me. I'm depressed on my private jet with 70 kinds of marijuana on it, doing drugs. But again, it's hopeful. Today we wake up to another morning sun. I'm happy this morning.” How Long? “This song was really about these policemen who are just arbitrarily executing citizens. You say to yourself, ‘Well, how long are we gonna keep living with that?’ It was very, very simple and very easy to write that song, because it was a question I thought a lot about. How long can we keep holding on to the same thing that we're repeating over and over again?” Shigamabu Blues “I like to create names. It was a name and a character that I used throughout the record. It's kind of a spirit; it's very African. It's all the kinds of things that can happen. We don't control the future. We don't control the next five minutes. It’s the monster of COVID-19, disease, and death. It's life and it's happiness, and it's Kobe Bryant being a millionaire and dying with his daughter. It's me getting into a coma for three weeks [in 1999]. A friend of mine, he has HIV. This record is very much that feeling, because the minute we realize that, then we have a much more peaceful existence.” Searching for Captain Save a Hoe (feat. E-40) “That song's a lot about me being the whore, you know? And about a lot of men. We're the whores and we can go around and do our thing as guys, but then if a woman does it, we call her a whore. I took the character of Captain Save a Hoe from the '90s, where this guy is now saving the men who are actually the whores. He's learned, and now he's a guy that I'm searching for to help save me and make me accountable to a lot of my really stupid and destructive ideas about family. And about E-40, what an innovative giant. I was so fortunate that my music got his attention. He was willing to go ahead and spit some bars on that, because he's just a giant. I was very pleased and honored to work with him.” Your Sex Is Overrated (feat. Masa Kohama) “That was more about the mental condition and using sex as a weapon. Sex as manipulation and sex for sale. Masa's a guy that I've played with for 25 years, and we did that track a long time ago. We found it and redid the verses, like, chopped it up. Initially, I really wanted to sing that with Brittany Howard—but we couldn't really make it happen. That's why it starts off with 'Brittany, I'm so scared of you [laughing].' That was my initial idea, to get her to sing that with her on the second verse. But hey, another time. And Masa's solo on there is tremendous. Really, one of one of the best solos ever recorded. That's right. I said it.” These Are My Friends “I was just playing it this morning on the piano—it's one of my favorite songs on the record. I wrote it about two of my very close friends, best friends who are pretty damaged people that may be suffering from a lot of trauma and mental illness, but they are completely functional. I describe them in the song. Sometimes it's hard to get along, but you know what, these are my friends, for better or for worse. They got my back and I got their back, and that's what I was trying to write about. Exploring people's deficiencies, but celebrating the bond. I've got my friends who are just as flawed as I am, but we support each other all the time. Your friends are your investors, basically; that's your investment portfolio.” All Up in My Space “It’s a very toxic thing—being a human being and being in relationships. People don’t want you sometimes because you don't want them, and I feel like that's extremely unhealthy. I think there's something wrong when that happens to people, and sometimes it can become extremely dangerous. Those type of interactions between people.” Justice in America “I didn't wanna write a song about it. I thought the idea itself was so powerful, because of the way that we use immigrants in this country and then we just wanna discard them and throw them away. I think that's why I wanted my friend Gina [Madrid]'s voice, who's a vocal artist. Sometimes, immigrants, they come here and they'll realize, 'Hey, this place isn't all that it said.' America is a place that's advertising for people to get free labor. And in the end, it's just that America was based on money. We don't say that on the Statue of Liberty, now, do we?” King Frustration “That was one of the most fun productions that I did, I think. It’s the two organ and guitar solos—and a kind of weird classical interlude thing that I did on it. I thought it was just fun, but it was inspired by one of my drug addict cousins. She'd been hooked on drugs for 30-something years. I just saw her walking down the street and I wanted to tell some of her story in that song. It was based on the struggle of growing up in the inner city, without some of the opportunities and all the challenges and all the pitfalls. And she has, man, five, six, seven different kids and gave them away to relatives.” Platypus Dipster “That song was just about relieving pressure, this pressure of the media and the expectations that people have until it just breaks people. I wrote this about a particular person again, and how they're just broken by society's expectations. People have this image of what they want you to be. Or, you know, our news cycle is for sale. We're bombarded daily with this information that people are trying to sell us. I don't think it's very normal, and it breaks people.”

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