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  • Writer's pictureKristine England

New Music Monday: Fantastic Negrito

playMYmusic.FM first showcased Fantastic Negrito as a Featured Artist for October 2019, attracted by a compelling backstory and his energetic, guitar-laden sound that’s a mix of blues, roots, and R&B. He also has a visual style all his own.

Growing up in Massachusetts in a conservative Somali family did little to prepare him for the culture shock and eventual awakening he experienced when the family relocated to the Bay Area when he was 12. As a teen in Oakland, he fell in with the wrong crowd, dealing drugs (though sometimes the weed was fake as he often substituted the real stuff with tea) and carrying a gun. Music was the way out. Prince was his inspiration, and he taught himself to play guitar. He eventually hooked up with Prince’s former manager and signed to Interscope under the moniker Xavier. That didn’t work out too well, and after a near-fatal car crash, he took a long break from music.

But in 2014, he returned as Fantastic Negrito, releasing his eponymous debut and two subsequent albums on Blackball Universe, winning two Grammys along the way. In 2020, he moved to a new label and released, Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? Now he’s back with White Jesus Black Problems on his own Storefront Records label. Critics are showering praise on his latest. A sampling: “A potent artistic tour de force” (Mojo), “... a musical and thematic groove that thrusts his music further… a combination of Frank Zappa and Prince” (American Songwriter), “His most career-defining album to date… a searing, provocative impact” (Glide Mag), “... liberating in its musical profundity” (Exclaim).

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