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About Fantastic Negrito
Bay Area-based singer/songwriter Xavier Dphrepaulezz rebooted his career in the 2010s by adopting the name Fantastic Negrito and pioneering a blues, hip-hop, rock, folk, and funk hybrid on his 2016 album, The Last Days of Oakland. This album arrived 11 years after X Factor, an album he released on Interscope under the name Xavier in 1995, but The Last Days of Oakland functioned as a de facto debut, showcasing an inventive, passionate musician who pulled together all the different, sometimes contradictory sounds in 21st century America and played with the past as a way to comment upon the present.
The son of a Somali-Caribbean immigrant father and a mother from the U.S. South, Dphrepaulezz was born in Massachusetts. He spent his early childhood there, raised in an orthodox Muslim household, then the family moved to Oakland when he was 12 years old. He delved deeply into music, learning several instruments, and started to write songs, developing a funky, soulful hybrid of R&B-rock. A few years passed before he went south to Los Angeles, signing a record contract with Interscope, which issued X Factor in 1995. The album didn't gain much traction and Dphrepaulezz soon found himself embroiled in record label battles, all of which paled when compared to the serious car accident he suffered in 2000. He spent four weeks in a coma, and once he got out of it, he found his hands were damaged considerably. He spent time in intensive rehab, then went back to Oakland in 2008.
Dphrepaulezz left music behind for family and home, eventually returning to performing after the birth of his son. Newly inspired, he found himself drawn to the blues. He renamed himself Fantastic Negrito and began working as an indie artist. His first big break arrived in 2015, when "Lost in a Crowd" won a Tiny Desk concert competition on NPR, and then the full-length The Last Days of Oakland, his first as Fantastic Negrito, arrived in the summer of 2016. A major breakthrough for Dphrepaulezz, the album was a critical and commercial success, winning a 2017 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. His follow-up, Please Don't Be Dead, was released in June 2018. Like its predecessor, Please Don't Be Dead took home the Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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