White Jesus Black Problems

White Jesus Black Problems

The years 2017, 2019, and 2021 brought Fantastic Negrito three Grammys for Best Contemporary Blues Album. If 2022 doesn’t provide a fourth for the Oakland-hailing singer and composer, it is only because his White Jesus Black Problems isn’t actually a blues album. The project is a concept LP exploring the relationship between Negrito’s seventh-generation white Scottish grandmother, an indentured servant, and his seventh-generation African American grandfather, a slave, in Colonial Virginia. Buried in some wily and operatic amalgamation of funk, rock, blues, gospel, Motown, and country are Negrito’s impressions of the era and the unknowable pressures of carrying on an interracial relationship during that time. For his part, Negrito is able to narrate an impossible sort of existence (“You Don’t Belong Here,” “You Better Have a Gun,” “Register of Free Negroes”) with near-academic resolve, bolstered by grooves too expansive and lively to be reduced to just “the blues.”

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