Ok…Strange choice of a name, but listen to the guy. Raw, unadulterated talent – with a rawness reminiscent of some of the old Mississippi bluesmen like Pinetop Perkins and John Lee Hooker. The following vid has 4 songs, as part of the NPR Tiny Desk Performance Series.
How a busker with a “claw” became Fantastic Negrito.
The man now known as Fantastic Negrito is wearing a three-piece checkered suit with a crisp, mustard-yellow shirt. Two small holes mark the knees of his pants, and orange striped socks flow into his tan leather shoes. The 47-year-old singer-songwriter hammers away on his Goodwill-bought guitar in a ravaged section of downtown Oakland, California, talking about how this is the place “where the real shit comes from.” Need to test a song? “Hit the streets. It’s very unsafe, and that’s good—strangers tell you the truth.”
Xavier Dphrepaulezz (his real name) isn’t supposed to be here, not really. Ever since he made it to what people keep telling him is “the big time,” he’s had to sneak out. Last February, he beat nearly 7,000 contestants competing for a chance to perform in an NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert, and he’s been on a meteoric rise ever since: His EP of raw, impassioned roots music reached No. 7 on Billboard‘s blues charts in February and was iTunes’ No. 7 blues album in August. His managers want him to save his voice for the paying gigs. They’re asking him: Why would a venue pay 10 grand if you keep playing in the streets for free?
But this is where it all began—at train stops and doughnut shops—before the “international sensation” talk, the courtship from major record labels, and invitations to play music festivals like South by Southwest and Outside Lands. His success happened so fast, seemingly overnight: “I throw up before every show, man. Terrified.”