Interview: Fantastic Negrito

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“Turned working people to the working poor….I keep on knocking but I can’t get in”, sings modern blues man Xavier Dphrepaulezz, who performs under the moniker Fantastic Negrito, of the economic disparity and gentrification he sees in his hometown of Oakland, California—though, he sees it happening everywhere he travels.  “The world is changing; but the world is supposed to change, it’s inevitable.  The Last Days Of Oakland could be called “The Last Days Of New Orleans”, or named after any other major city in the world,” he explains of his new album, set for release on June 3rd.

“It’s more about what you plan to do, how we can collectively make something happen in the face of the change,” he adds.  “The Last Days Of Oakland acknowledges the end of one thing, and the beginning of something else.  We may not be able to afford to live in the towns we were raised in anymore, that’s a reality.  There’s been a shift—cities have become places for people who make a lot of money, and we have to deal with that because it’s not going anywhere.”

For a man who has lost a brother and cousin to gun violence, endured years in foster care, sustained a serious bodily injury, and survived a three-week coma, Dphrepaulezz has already lived several lifetimes to any other person’s one, but has chosen to view the world through a hopeful lens; “I’m optimistic because I’ve experienced enough to know that everything changes, it doesn’t matter what it is, and we have a choice as to how we want to deal with it,” he says.  “We can choose to be victims, we can be crybabies, or we can think outside of the box and come up with creative solutions. You always walk towards the light.  It’s a good time for a renaissance, it’s a good time for honesty, for art, and creativity.  People need us now more than ever.”

His hardships have become a part of his fiber, and a source for inspiration as an artist; The Last Days Of Oakland is a commentary on injustice, inequality, and disenfranchisement, a powerfully moving snapshot of the unrest that seethes beneath the surface of our fragile society.

“The thing that brought me to music was the realization of how therapeutic it is, it’s the language of humanity.  I hope that I’m contributing to the human family, that my art is a contribution.  If that means it helps people, inspires people, opens up dialogue, if I am the person who has to have difficult conversations, I’m okay with that role,” he explains. “Someone has to say these things that I’m saying.  I’ve been entrusted with this role in the saga of humanity, and I’m comfortable with it, I’m happy to do it.”

Pre-order The Last Days Of Oaklandfantasticnegrito.lnk.to/Oakland

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Susan Hubbard

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