SXSW standout Fantastic Negrito celebrates life, exceeds hype

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“What are you doing to me?” Fantastic Negrito playfully asked the sound guy as the volume on his microphone was cutting out early into the set. “I’m trying to live up to the hype. There’s a lot of hype going ’round in this [expletive].”

Xavier Dphrepaulezz, better known to those familiar with NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concerts as Fantastic Negrito, is a black roots musician from Oakland, Calif., Dphrepaulezz ended up being one of this SXSW’s most talked about artists after winning a contest with more than 7,000 other unsigned artists to perform for NPR Music.

“There’s only one Fantastic Negrito, and he’s in Austin tonight,” Dphrepaulezz said. His Saturday night SXSW showcase was at the Lucky Lounge, where a full house crowded in to see the charismatic blues man in the sharp three-piece suit and tie with a velvet blazer.

Even without knowing about his opportunity with NPR or his backstory involving a near fatal car crash that left him in a coma, it’s hard to not feel inspired when seeing Fantastic Negrito perform. It’s raw roots music with a positive attitude. “The name of this show is exorcise the demons, exorcise the [expletive] out of your life.” Exorcise and exercise, cause though there was barely room to scratch your nose in the tightly packed Lucky Lounge there was plenty of dancing.

Fantastic Negrito and his outrageously good band of four, each in their own snazzy-looking vintage threads, rocked though boogie blues with Dphrepaulezz front and center doing pelvic thrusts and James Brown spins and charming the crowd.

The band closed with the song that brought them here, as Dphrepaulezz put it, the fiery and undeniable “Lost In a Crowd” but only after managing to make himself even more likable. “I have terrible stage fright. I don’t know if any of y’all caught me, but I threw up three times before this.”


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