REVIEW: Fantastic Negrito “Lost In A Crowd”

When Xavier Dphrepaulezz was twelve years old, his family moved from Massachusetts to Oakland California. Growing up in a strict Muslim household, he spent most of his days in prayer. The only music he was allowed to listen to was Arthur Fielder, but being the center of the nation’s most infamous communities, cultureshock was an understatement. Xavier soon fell in love with the music of James Brown, Funkadelic, and Sly & The Family Stone, as well as the temptations life in the streets had to offer. After being kicked out of his home by his disapproving father, he was able to use his love of music as a way to support himself. By the time he was twenty five, he learned how to play countless musical instruments and began catching the eye of local talent scouts in the area. When he moved to Los Angeles, Xavier sooned teamed up with a powerful manager, signed a million dollar deal with Jimmy Iovine’s Interscope Records, and began work on his first album The X Factor.

In 1995 the music scene was constantly shifting. Gangsta Rap had already gone mainstream and Soul/R&B music was getting far more Hip-Hop influenced. Even Pop music was picking up on urban flavors, leaving the Prince-meets-Funkadelic styling of The X Factor passe and obsolete. Without proper promotion or a definite target audience, the album failed to meet the expectations Interscope had in mind. Xavier was music career seemingly ended just as fast as it started. Disillusioned with artistry identity crisis, and the pressures of the major label to mold him into a trend, he walked from the deal and all but gave up on becoming a successful recording artist. A few years later, a near fatal car accident put him a coma for four weeks, causing permanent damage over his entire body, including his guitar hand. Even though he worked hard through rehabilitation for several years, he was forced to cut ties with his musical dreams.

After regaining his ability to use his legs, he moved back to Oakland to pursue the life of a family man. He sold fruits and vegetables, raised chickens, and focused on being a husband and father, putting his former dreams of stardom behind him for good. One fateful night, after trying everything to put his infant son to sleep, he picked up a guitar to sing him a lullaby and just like that, his love of music had come into focus. He remembered why he pursued music in the first place: It completed him. He realized that making music isn’t about following a trend or adhering to a flavor of the week, it was about expressing yourself and creating music you want to hear. Soon Xavier was writing a performing music again bu unlike the success driven disillusionment of finding a trend or a niche audience, his new music was from the heart. He put together a small band, and took his new found love to the streets under the moniker Fantastic Negrito.

After winning the Tiny Desk Music contest held by NPR Music, Fantastic Negrito is getting a second chance at his dream, but this time on his own terms. Without the pressure of a major label molding him into what is popular on the charts, he is now free to play the music he wants, how he wants, and when he wants.With his first release since winning the NPR contest, Fantastic Negrito’s EP Lost In A Crowd has been released exclusively on vinyl through Knoxville TN’s Fat Elvis Records. With only two songs on the EP, the listener is treated to a journey of artistry and personal history via soulful rawness of Delta Blues combined with charisma of Lenny Kravits, and the poise of The Black Keys.

Lost In A Crowd features the pulsating drive of stomps, sultry organ licks, and vocal delivery straight from the soul of an artist who is getting a second chance at a life long dream, as well as celebrating the rebirth of a life that could have easily ended prematurely. It’s redemption story of being a fish out of water in counter culture, achieving a dream, having ripped from your hands, tossed aside left for dead, then given back. Fantastic Negrito’s story is the DNA of what makes these two songs so remarkable. Not only are they stellar compositions of blues harnessed soul, but they are performed with such sentimental honesty that it’s no question that comes from the very heart and soul of it’s performer. You don’t just listen to these songs, you feel every note. Conviction, redemption, loss, gain, hope and history. Fantastic Negrito is an artist who may have been given a second chance, but it’s obvious that it’s just the beginning of a legendary career.

Lost In A Crowd  is available on limited edition vinyl, exclusively at Fat Elvis Records

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Aaron The Audiophile

Son, brother, uncle, musician. I enjoy music of all genres, shapes and sizes, preferably the good kind.

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