Fantastic Negrito | Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? | (Cooking Vinyl)
4 out of 5 stars
Astonishingly, Fantastic Negrito christened his third full-length album (under that alias) before the world was turned inside out.
The disc’s prescient title comprises the first words you hear when this set immediately kicks into high gear with the funky “Chocolate Samurai,” just one of a few peculiarly named tracks where the titular lyrics never appear in the song. Welcome to the wild and wonderfully skewed world of Xavier Dphrepaulezz, aka Fantastic Negrito.
Initially considered a blues performer — 2016’s The Last Days of Oakland won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album — the Bay area-based Negrito’s music has been notoriously difficult to pin down, let alone categorize. His vision of blues is as eclectic and all-encompassing as Prince’s was to soul. That makes him one of a handful of roots acts whose fresh approach is entirely unpredictable. He’s fearless, an attribute even more pronounced on this typically odd nine-song (two additional selections are short spoken-word breaks) release.
There’s psychedelic soul in the smooth yet gutsy “How Long,” rock-oriented funk on “Platypus Dipster” (another perplexing concept not clarified in the song’s lyrics) and a delightfully diverse combination of blues, gospel and R&B best exemplified in “Your Sex is Overrated” with Negrito’s Prince-inspired falsetto whoops. As producer/singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, the talented and visionary player follows in Prince’s footsteps with influences that also include Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Parliament/Funkadelic, especially in the guitar work of Eddie Hazel.
The track designations alone are reminiscent of Captain Beefheart-styled outlandishness with “Searching for Captain Save a Hoe,” “Shigamaboo Blues” and “I’m So Happy I Could Cry” leading the charge. This is territory few blues-oriented musicians even approach. It’s therefore surprising when Negrito retreats to relatively restrained melodic terrain for the sweet Wonder-inspired “All Up in My Space.”
There aren’t many that push boundaries with the innovative inclusiveness that Fantastic Negrito doggedly follows. He’s one of America’s most unique and unusual artists, exemplified by this original and compelling release.