The Last Days of Oakland, the highly anticipated first full-length album from critically acclaimed artist Fantastic Negrito, is out June 3 on Blackball Universe. To celebrate the upcoming release, NPR Music’s All Songs Considered is premiering the single “Working Poor” at http://n.pr/1SvNiWU. The track is available for purchase via iTunes beginning today.
Known for his unique fusion of blues, soul, roots and rock music, on The Last Days of Oakland frontman and songwriter Xavier Dphrepaulezz tackles the socioeconomic, race and class issues he witnesses on a daily basis living in the East Bay. “Something has happened,” observes Dphrepaulezz. “We are in a new phase. An era has definitely ended and I can feel it in every major city I toured in the States. Black folks have moved out of the city in large numbers. The cities have become almost impossible to live in due to skyrocketing rent and high costs of living.” He also notes, “I feel the end of something always means the beginning of something new. I like my chances and I like yours in The Last Days of Oakland. It’s really up to us collectively if we choose.¨
The winner of NPR’s inaugural Tiny Desk Concert Contest, Fantastic Negrito quickly won over critics with 2015’s self-titled EP. Consequence of Sound wrote of the record “Dphrepaulezz sings like a man compelled by a spiritual force…[his] voice is impassioned, somewhere between a croon and a scream,” and the Washington Post praised the EP’s “raw vocals and self-assessing lyrics.” The San Francisco Chronicle noted that “almost overnight, the singer-songwriter became an international sensation.
Dphrepaulezz hailed from an orthodox Muslim household as a child. After relocating from rural Massachusetts to Oakland as a teenager in the 1980s, he quickly moved from strict religion to the music of Funkadelic; by the age of 20 he taught himself to play just about every instrument he came across, and in the `90s, he signed a multi-million dollar deal with Interscope Records performing under his first name Xavier. Dphrepaulezz’s life changed drastically when he was involved in a near death car accident resulting in a three-week coma, followed by intensive physical rehabilitation with his guitar playing hand permanently incapacitated. After a five-year hiatus, Dphrepaulezz created Fantastic Negrito. Inspired by all American music, most especially Delta bluesmen such as R.L Burnside and Skip James, he sought to modernize his compositions by sampling and looping his own live recordings. He told NPR that the name is “a celebration of blackness. The ‘Fantastic’ is self-explanatory; the ‘Negrito’ is a way to open blackness up to everyone, making it playful and international.”