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A blue funk: Fantastic Negrito to bring ‘blunk’ to free festival

Fantastic news: Oakland songsmith Fantastic Negrito will bring his blend of blues, punk, funk, gospel, and soul to the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s free R&B concert series at MetroTech Commons on July 18.
Brooklyn Paper
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It’ll be a fantastic show!

A Californian roots singer will bring his soulful songs to a free afternoon festival hosted by the Brooklyn Academy of Music at MetroTech Commons on July 18.

Oakland-based Fantastic Negrito will perform his powerful blend of blues, punk, funk, soul, and gospel — or “blunk,” as he calls it — and he said that the show will be a spiritual experience for the audience in America’s Downtown.

“They can expect a whole lot of church without the religion,” said the musician, who goes by Xavier Dphrepaulezz off-stage.

Dphrepaulezz grew up in Massachusetts, the son of a Somali immigrant dad and a mother from Bedford-Stuyvesant, the eighth of 14 kids. The family moved to Oakland, California when he was 12, where he discovered a wide range of musical and artistic influences, including the painter Basquiat, the band Parliament Funkadelic, and David Bowie, Little Richard, and Prince.

“When I was a young kid and saw Prince dressed in a trench coat and garters — while I wouldn’t necessarily wear that, it was pretty impressive to see that,” he said.

The artist began playing basic funk in the 1990s, but a serious car crash in 1999 put him on a different path. He joined the burgeoning Afro-Punk movement in the early 2000s under the moniker Blood Sugar X, and in the 2010s he took on the name Fantastic Negrito, gaining attention by winning NPR’s Tiny Desk contest, and delivering a powerful performance at the public radio station’s cramped studio in 2015.

He has since released two full-length albums — each of which won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album — and last week he dropped a music video for the track “The Suit that Won’t Come Off” from his 2018 record “Please Don’t Be Dead.”

The song and the record are part of his fight against the current political turmoil by seeking unity through music, according to the artist.

“People are trying to make it normal to be a Nazi — I’m not accepting that,” he said. “One thing music does, it unites people, even people that have differences. Music can give them a reason to come together — it’s a great ice breaker.”

The Bay Area songster will sing at the Downtown space as part of the Academy’s R&B Festival, which has free concerts every Thursday through Aug. 15.

He will share the bill with Brooklyn United Evolution Drumline, a Kings County group of school-age drummers. Their performances are separate, but at the suggestion of this reporter, Dphrepaulezz said he may join forces with the drummers on stage.

“You never know, we used to do that all the time in the streets. I came from the streets doing busking, and we used to always meet up with people in Oakland playing drums,” he said. “You just planted the idea, so we’ll see.”

“Fantastic Negrito” at MetroTech Commons [Myrtle Avenue between Lawrence and Bridge streets Downtown, www.bam.org, (718) 636-4100]. Jul. 18 at noon. Free.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Posted 12:00 am, July 15, 2019
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