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Fantastic Negrito forges ahead, not back

Sinclair, Cambridge, Mass., July 13, 2019

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Fantastic Negrito hasn't exactly steered a straight path in his musical career. It's a long story that goes back to 1998 with typical tales of major label woes, a near fatal car accident, abandoning music and then having a musical rebirth five years ago after winning the NPR Tiny Desk Concert out of 7,000 entrants. Since then, he also has earned two Grammys for "Best Contemporary Blues Album."

Fantastic Negrito's concerts aren't straight shots either. Musically, he's a combo of blues, which is the basis for most of his music, with a very healthy dose of R&B. Add folk blues to the mix as well.

His blues comes armed with a heavy, dense sound. A three-piece backing band of guitar, keyboards and drums set up the songs exceedingly well throughout with each musician playing a key role whether forceful drumming, keyboards or numerous slide guitar licks. They most definitely did not rush the songs along either.

Of course, Fantastic Negrito did his utmost in bringing the songs to life. There's a lot of politics in his material including one song where he talked about "ICE is at the door," particularly poignant given the raids on immigrants that President Trump promised would start only hours later.

When it came to the crowd, Fantastic Negrito a number of songs where the fans weighed in as well.

Yes, there were heavy raw sounds and topics, but there was more to Fantastic Negrito than that.

He was an engaging personality. It should probably come as no surprise that he also could be very funny. He jokingly told a story about how his father told him he should never come back to western Massachusetts where he was born Xavier Dphrepaulezz before moving to Oakland, where he still lives because, quoting his father, said "women will fuck you up." Fantastic Negrito also joked about his dress style, which were black pants with a large silver flare, among other things.

Fantastic Negrito has come a long way in five years from having been a street performer in Oakland. He made it clear he liked that, too, but he made it even more clear that with outings like this with his sheer force of personality and music, he isn't going back any time soon.