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 Muruch.com 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

Buy @ Amazon

20 Years Post-Kurt Cobain

A lot of sites are posting about Kurt Cobain today, 20 years after his death. Of those I’ve read, I find Time’s the most interesting since it has quotes from members of Soundgarden, Weezer and The Roots about Nirvana. I hadn’t planned to write anything myself for the same reason I didn’t review the 20th anniversary edition of In Utero…that icky feeling of capitalizing on a tragedy. But the significance of today and the memories it evokes are much stronger than any misgivings I felt before, so here we go…

I was a high school freshman 20 years ago and I, along with most of my classmates, was in love with everything connected to Grunge. I dyed my hair black, raided my brother’s and grandfather’s closets for old flannel shirts and traded mixtapes with friends made up of songs by Temple of the Dog, Tool, Pearl Jam and, of course, Nirvana. We all watched their videos on MTV with an almost religious fervor and had excited debates about their music in between (and sometimes during) classes.

Previous generations remembered where they were when Kennedy was shot and we all know where we were on 9/11. But, in between, I always remembered the moment when MTV News announced Kurt Cobain was dead. I was home sick from school that week watching our huge, ancient living room television and that’s where I stayed for days, glued to the news coverage in a way that was unusual in those pre-24-hour-news days. I cried as Courtney Love read her husband’s suicide note to a crowd of his fans.

Across the sea in Ireland the same day, Brendan heard the news on Irish radio. Which in itself is kind of amazing considering it was such a different time in music, in life, then. Long before the internet connected everything and everyone and gave local bands a worldwide audience. It was somewhat of a miracle at that time for the Seattle music scene and subsequently Cobain’s death to make such an international impact. Or maybe it wasn’t. There certainly hasn’t been anything since that sounds like this….