Xavier Dphrepaulezz, better known by his stage name, Fantastic Negrito. He survived homelessness and a near fatal car crash to create what he describes as “black roots music for everyone” with “zero concern for ‘pop’ anything.” His new album, “The Last Days of Oakland,” is out now. He gave us a dinner party soundtrack for your next jazz-infused feast.
Miles Davis — “So What”
So, the first song is a classic. “So What” by Miles Davis.
Love eating to jazz. There’s just something about it. It’s deep and rich. And it’s very, very good for the digestive system. Your organs are like a musical band. And when you’ve got the combination of good company, good music, and good food… oooh that band can play! Heart is just pumping [makes drum sounds], stomach is letting the juices break it down. Kidneys [imitates saxophone] bah-bah-bah-bah!
I’ve heard that song my entire life. It’s been places. It’s shot heroin. It’s failed. But then it recovered. It’s kind of like a survivor. Which is something I can relate to. I’m the eighth of 14 kids. [Laughs.] It was a complete circus. I ran away when I was 12 and moved to Oakland, California from New England. Spent a couple years on the streets, and then when I was about 17, I decided I’d be a musician.
John Coltrane – “Blue Train”
Well, I’m going to be predictable. This one gonna have to go with John Coltrane, “Blue Train.”
I mean, he has you at the first rip. [Sings along to the melody of the opening.] That’s it! And then the other horns come in and play the chorus notes.
Coltrane. It’s almost like someone else is speaking in the back [begins to scat along with the song.] And he’s very opinionated. But at the same time, he has the skill to blend in and not be disruptive. It’s like a genius, but he can speak to you on a level that doesn’t make you feel stupid.
At my dinner party, you’ll see children. Older people. Former street guys. A loud, Caribbean gentleman that drinks. You’ll see a professor from India. He’s loud too. You’ll see a French woman that’s 94 and she can tell you all about the day that the Nazi’s came.
I mean, you just learn from each other. There’s so much to talk about. That’s why I call the Bay Area the greatest tribe ever assembled. We are some edgy, eclectic, diverse people. Sometimes with very different opinions that can all get together.
Hamza El Din – “Assaramessuga”
Song number three, I was like, “Well if I just pick all jazz, people would think that’s all I listen to.” I picked “Assaramessuga” by Hamza El Din, and in English it means “childhood.”
And this song… it’s so festive, simple, and primitive, in a sense. And it feels like they would have played this a thousand years ago at a dinner party. It sounds as old as humanity. And it still resonates to the present day.
Hamza El Din. A Nubian guitarist. He plays the oud. The oud is like a pregnant guitar [laughs]. Like it’s made out of a gourd or something.
It reminds me of my dad. I came from a sort of Muslim-Orthodox home. My father had a restaurant growing up. He called it East African cuisine, but when I grew up, I found out he would just take all these different ethnic foods — and this was back in the ’70s — and sell them to white people from New England who didn’t know any better. But it was a good restaurant!
Fantastic Negrito – “About a Bird”
If I was going to play one of my own tracks at a dinner party, it would have to be “About A Bird.”
I think that I was going for healing on that song. After getting into a near fatal accident that left me in a coma for three weeks, I quit music for five years and I came back home to Oakland, California and I wanted to start a family. I had a son. And he pointed me right back to music.
He couldn’t get to sleep one day and I picked up the guitar and played a G major and it was like from God. This kid just freaked out in the most beautiful way. And I came up with the idea of Fantastic Negrito. And that’s why I’m here now.