“Fantastic Negrito continues to live to his ‘black roots’ moniker—a weary, weathered soul survivor raging against the coming storm.” —Exclaim!
In 1999, Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz was in a near-fatal car accident. Rods were placed throughout his body and his playing hand was mutilated. It wasn’t until his son was born many years later that he rediscovered music, and it came back stronger and clearer than ever. After years adrift, he was reborn as Fantastic Negrito. He started out by playing on the streets in Oakland. Then in 2014, he won NPR’s Tiny Desk contest, which provided momentum to make his debut album, The Last Days of Oakland, a gritty, street-level blues-rock album overflowing with personality. It caught fire, winning the 2017 Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album. In 2019, he did it again, winning his second Grammy in the same category for the autobiographical Please Don’t Be Dead. “There may be no one on earth who can deliver a line like ‘I get knocked down / But I keep on fighting’ with [his] sincerity and wisdom of experience” (Afro Punk). This is a man who knows what it’s like to drive off a cliff. He now channels that adrenalized energy through his guitar and back out into the world.