Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Albums of the Year # 13 Fantastic Negrito

Reposted from the early part of this year. Fanstastic Negrito has since had a Grammy Nomination in the Contemporary Blues Album category for 2017. 

'Let's make a sandwich. Let's make a new baby.The seeds were planted long ago. Let's watch the tree grow.'

The Blues has a particular signature sound associated with it. It's a low, long deep moan that signals the expression of a particular experience that's hundreds if not thousands of years old. Most of all it expresses the idea of people in chains. It's perhaps the polar opposite of the idea of Twee that I've been writing about on here over the last few days. For Brooklyn, New York in 2016, read Oakland, California in 2016.

'That man. He cracked the whip and beat you down...'

That blues moan is all over Fantastic Negrito's debut album The Last Days of Oakland. Just out. The moan starts track after track on here and then goes on to occupy them. It's an expression that we're here in 2016, but is that actually an achievement in itself? America actually has a Black president but we're still not where we ought to be, in fact we may be heading back to a place where we should never even think of going back to. The record is an incredibly cocksure angry and considered statement. At times blues, at times punk and then by turns jazz, hip hop, spiritual, folk and every point in between. Ultimately it's just great music and an incredibly good record and document of the times we live in and the mistakes we continue to make.

'There's a bird at my window. She watches it all...'

It's soaked in spoken samples that tell its story alongside the actual music itself. Slavery, Emancipation, Klu Klux Klan, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Black Panthers. America's great historical shame. Fantastic Negrito, actually Xavier Dphrepaulez, (yes really!), spreads it all thick. This is as much an act of scholarship as one of music expression but you don't need to make your way through a reading list to catch his drift. It's an oft told tale. As I said it's 2016 and Muhammed Ali has just died.

'I've been working three jobs just to pay my bills...'

I'll be playing this a lot over the coming months and will be curious to see if it does grow, like the tree Negrito talks about on its introductory rap. It certainly deserves to. I generally don't do politics on here, at least explicitly, but I suppose I have done on this post. These are trying times, not just in America but where I'm writing from too, (a British Member of Parliament was shot a couple of days ago for seemingly racially motivated reasons). Last Days of Oakland in many ways is the best candidate to soundtrack 2016 I've heard so far this year. Onwards and upwards!

'We travel and we travel, trying to find it. We're just people, lonely people. You and I...'

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