LOS ANGELES:  Fantastic Negrito, winner of Best Contemporary Blues Album for Please Don't Be Dead, poses in the press room during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in California.
LOS ANGELES: Fantastic Negrito, winner of Best Contemporary Blues Album for Please Don't Be Dead, poses in the press room during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in California. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

Double whammy Grammy winner coming to Bluesfest

BLUES artist Xavier Dphrepaulezz, known as Fantastic Negrito, won his second consecutive Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album earlier this month for his latest release, Please Don't Be Dead.

Fantastic Negrito, 51, won the same accolade in 2016 for his first album, The Last Days of Oakland.

Speaking from his hometown in Oakland, California, Dphrepaulezz said he was still celebrating the win and very keen to come back to Bluesfest for his second performance.

"I'm still enjoying the great opportunity and honour of being a two-time Grammy winner," he said.

"(American hip hop band) The Roots asked me to join them on stage for a Grammy party jam, that was great. We actually played a couple of my songs. It was a great honour to play with them," he said.

Fantastic Negrito said he was a lot more relaxed writing his sophomore record, compared with his debut one.

"It was really a bass and guitar record," he said.

"I was writing the bass line thinking about all the dubious characters I knew growing up; you know, gangsters, drug dealers and politicians.

"I really had fun recording the album."

Dphrepaulezz said the album was a letter to the United States.

"Please Don't be Dead I wrote as an ode to America," he said.

"I feel like we have been going through so many things that I want the idea of America not to be dead.

"From Fantastic Hamburguers all the way to the ballad I dedicated to (the late Soundgarden musician) Chris Cornell, called Dark Windows, all these songs are threaded together with positivity."

"My album is a celebration of songs about optimism."

Fantastic Negrito knows about the power of optimism to get things around in life.

He was raised in an orthodox Muslim household.

His father was a Somali-Caribbean immigrant who mostly played traditional African music.

When, at the age of 12, Negrito's family moved from Massachusetts to Oakland, he was hit with an intense culture shock.

Oakland in the 1980s was a million miles from Negrito's conservative childhood.

He went from Arab chants to Funkadelic in one day, living in the heart of one most vibrant black communities in the nation.

He became inspired to learn music after listening to Prince's album Dirty Mind and hearing that Prince was a self-taught musician.

He learned to play music by sneaking into music classrooms at the University of California Berkeley despite not being a student there.

The artist thinks his distinctive style borrows from his experience growing up listening to urban and hip hop music.

"I'm probably part of the first generation of people that grew up with hip hop," he said.

"A lot of my stuff is based on taking the best part of the guitar, the best part of the bass, the best part of the drums and looping them.

"I think that's why people say about my records 'oh it's old but it sounds so new!

"I probably gave away my production secret just now," he added.

  • At Bluesfest Byron Bay on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, April 18, 20 and 21. Visit bluesfest.com.au for details.