Fantastic Negrito is a Grammy Award-winning musician who plays “blues music with a punk attitude from Oakland, California.” He has an album, “Please Don’t Be Dead,” that will be released on June 15.
One of the tracks on the album, “Bullshit Anthem,” is a protest song with a simple mantra to not let systemic oppression and legacies of racism define a person’s life or keep a person down.
He sings, “Take that bullshit, turn it into good shit.” It repeats over a riff that seems tailor-made for getting a stadium of concert goers clapping.
It is both personal and political. Negrito, or Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz views his current act as the “incarnation of a musician” who was “reborn” after surviving a “lot of awful shit.” The elements of the music stem from a “long hard life channeled through black roots music.”
Dphrepaulezz is 50 years-old. His father was a Somali-Caribbean immigrant. He lived in an orthodox Muslim household in Massachusetts, and they moved to Oakland when Dphrepaulezz was 12. He learned how to play several instruments but became involved in drug dealing and street gangs and was nearly killed. So, he took off for Los Angeles to become a professional musician.
He signed a million dollar deal with Interscope Records, however, the album was a failure. The craze was gangsta rap. The focus was “looks, hooks, and gimmicks [to] attract an audience.” Dphrepaulezz hated it and quit.
A car accident in 2000 put Dphrepaulezz in a coma. The hand he used to play music was very badly injured. While recovering, he established a more stable life in Oakland. He had a son, and he felt renewed and ready to make music again. That led to Fantastic Negrito.
But he also has used his music, as well as his prominence, to draw attention to gentrification, particularly in Oakland. He has infused his lyrics with comments on poverty, capitalism, police brutality, and gun violence. He even supported and performed at presidential campaign events for Senator Bernie Sanders in 2016.
At the Chicago Blues Festival on June 10, Dphrepaulezz spoke about a recent tour in Europe.
“I’m overseas, man, for six weeks. Everywhere I get the same question. Guess what it is? What is going on in America?” Dphrepaulezz shared.
He said he went home and put together the album, “Please Don’t Be Dead,” which he believes is fitting for America and “all the things that say that we stand for.”
“America’s kind of like a diet. We say we’re on it, but we’re still eating donuts,” Dphrepaulezz quipped.
Then he stated we ought to be able to talk about the state of the country and openly address these issues. If we can’t discuss issues with others because we disagree, that is bullshit. He launched into “Bullshit Anthem.”
All that President Donald Trump’s administration does each and every day can be terribly suffocating. It is easy to be cynical and feel like the systemic racism and inequalities of capitalism are only going to get worse from here—and what’s the use in trying to resist when it is hard enough to survive?
However, Dphrepaulezz said in an interview for GOOD, “I don’t wake up every day and think about what’s not happening for me because of the color of my skin. But I know it’s out there.”
“It’s woven into the fabric of this country. America was founded on the principles of freedom for some and none for others.”
That’s bullshit, and it should not stop us. It’s certainly not going to stop the Fantastic Negrito.
Listen to Fantastic Negrito perform “Bullshit Anthem”: