Fantastic Negrito may have been born in Massachusetts, but he’s a Bay Area guy through and through. The 8th of 15 kids, he moved to Oakland as a twelve year old and immediately immersed himself in the sounds of the 510 and the 415. He was no stranger to punk rock clubs like Berkeley’s Gillman or the underground hip hop clubs of Oakland. He liked it all—metal, indie rock, soul, punk and jazz and the legend goes that he learned to play by sneaking into the music classrooms at Cal, even though he wasn’t a student. Using his birth name of Xavier, in 1993 he signed a deal with Prince’s former Manager’s Lexington House Records who had a distribution deal with Interscope. Three years later he put out his debut album, simply titled Xavier. A horrifying car crash in 1999 nearly killed him but after waking up from a three week coma, he started to see his career in a totally different way. That new angle wouldn’t take hold until 2014, seven years after a self-imposed exile of not making music anymore. He emerged in his 40s as Fantastic Negrito, a personae that made what he called Black roots music for everyone. And, it turns out, everyone was into it. Fantastic Negrito pulled off an improbable hat trick, winning the Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2016 for The Last Days Of Oakland, repeating that feat for 2019’s Please Don’t Be Dead and doing it again for 2020’s Have You Lost Your Mind? His new album Grandfather Courage is the acoustic reimagining of his 2022 album White Jesus Black Problems and it’s nothing short of brilliant. It’s indie rock soul, it’s low-fi blues, it’s big, it’s grand, it’s ambitious and it’s one of the richer musical experiences you’ll have all year.
Stereo Embers The Podcast
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