Fantastic Negrito: The Last Days of Oakland (Album Review, Videos & Full Album Stream)

Fantastic Negrito’s debut full-length album, The Last Days of Oakland, churns classic blues, soul, and funk with modern garage rock like somebody spun Lead Belly, Buddy Guy, Otis Redding, and Black Joe Lewis records in a blender.

Fantastic Negrito, led by singer and multi-instrumentalist Xavier Dphrepaulezz, first caught my attention jammin’ with Jamal in a club on Fox’s Empire. At the time they only had a couple of EPs out, so I was very excited for this album’s release. It more than lives up to the anticipation.

The entire album is a nonstop brilliant and bombastic rumination on injustice and inequality of both social and economic natures. My personal favorite tracks…

“Working Poor” has a fiercely catchy guitar riff and twisted refrain of Little Richard’s “Keep on Knockin'” with lyrics about the working class’ struggle to survive despite working as hard as we possibly can.

When I was curating for RAINN, I tried and failed to arrange a worthy cover of the traditional Appalachian folk song “In the Pines” (aka “Black Girl” aka Lead Belly/Nirvana’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”), so my heart just about exploded when I saw the song title on The Last Days of Oakland‘s tracklist.

Fantastic Negrito not only delivers a magnificently revamped, reverberating rendition of “In the Pines,” they also composed a new, gut-punch verse envisioning the “Black Girl” as the single mother of a son shot by police. It is the most perfect cover, beyond anything I could have imagined.

photo credit: Robbie Welsh

Other highlights are “Hump Through the Winter,” which follows the same theme as “Working Poor,” “Rant on Rushmore,” and the song they jammed with Jamal, “Lost in a Crowd”…

Fantastic Negrito Official Site

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Nappy Roots: New Song “Party for the Ages”

Kentucky rappers Nappy Roots will release their new album, The 40 Akerz Project, on March 3rd. Their 2002 song “Po’ Folks” (feat. Anthony Hamilton) connected with this lifelong poor, Appalachian girl in a way that not many popular songs do. Even over a decade later, I still find myself singing the song’s resigned lyrical refrain “all my life been po’ but it really don’t matter no mo’” when facing adversity (such as last year’s WV water crisis.) That, in my opinion, is the mark of a great song — that feeling of recognition.

My excitement over Nappy Roots’ album news quickly turned to trepidation, though, when I saw their new song title “Party for the Ages.” Had my beloved Nappy Roots abandoned their own authentic, poetic, real life rap style in favor of the more popular, party lifestyle brand of rap? Thankfully the answer is a resounding no.

The song’s arrangement and chorus do have a more modern, ambient sound, but the verses show Nappy Roots are still rapping from their hearts.

Nappy Roots Official Site