"...Album highlight ‘Lost in a Crowd’ delightfully combines the funereal paced fury, staccato piano dancing in and out of a bluesy riff, with a disarmingly heartfelt chorus providing a much needed ray of hope..."
If you want to hear to authentic old school rhythm and blues with an overt social conscience, created by someone who has been through the mill himself then Xavier Dphrepaulezz a.k.a. Fantastic Negrito should be right up your alley.
‘The Last Days of Oakland’ constitutes Negrito’s third release, following a nineteen year gap between his debut ‘X-Factor’ and eponymous sophomore release in 2014. The lengthy hiatus between albums one and two was enforced by the combination of disillusionment with his original label Interscope, plus the small matter of a near fatal car crash in 1999 which badly damaged his hands requiring intensive physiotherapy just to get them moving again.
Anyway, it’s great to see Negrito rediscovering his taste for creating music, perhaps continuing the fine tradition of classic urban records sustaining a generation of disenfranchised African Americans, whilst adding generous doses of Gospel and Mississippi blues together with a hard hitting message, the result being a withering polemic on the current state of his homeland; basically a bunch of angry songs, all beautifully sung.
‘Oakland’ is effectively broken into three parts, each boasting a brief scene setting curtain raiser the eponymous opening title track drifting into ‘Working Poor’, slide guitar and organ vying for attention as Negrito takes a thought-provoking slide swipe at the haves versus the have nots at one point ranting, ‘Sip fancy coffee, step over body outside the door’. Things sometimes get more upbeat too, the furious jive of ‘Scary Woman’ being a prime example, a track to really make your hips wiggle.
Part two starts with ‘Interlude 1 - What do you do’, seguing into ‘The Nigga Song’ which pulls absolutely no punches, reinforcing the bleakness of Negrito’s mood, a real chain gang of a tune with broad social references including Klan hangings of the past right up to gang culture of the present.
Negrito’s take on the much covered Appalachian folk standard ‘The Pines’ is even more sombre, the despairing jealousy almost palpable, continuing on the funk rock of ‘Hump Through The Winter’, the recurring theme of exclusion there for all to see. Album highlight ‘Lost in a Crowd’ delightfully combines this funereal paced fury, staccato piano dancing in and out of a bluesy riff, with a disarmingly heartfelt chorus providing a much needed ray of hope.
‘Interlude 2 –El Chileno’ kicks-off the final part before ‘The Worst’, a deliciously sprawling groove with money and power at the centre of conversation topic, and how well- heeled guys always seem to get the girls. Penultimate track ‘Rant Rushmore’ sees our hero in reflective and ultimately self-flagellating mood, contemplating the price of failure before rounding things off with the deliciously soulful and totally heartfelt ‘Nothing Without You’, proving the old adage that a man is diminshed without his other half by his side.
Words - Mike Price
The Last Days Of Oakland is out now via Blackball Universe
Fantastic Negrito official