5 Questions is a series by Steve Duffy –
Singer-Songwriter Xavier Dphrepaulezz A.K.A Fantastic Negrito has finally found his way back to his musical roots. Back in February, Fantastic Negrito beat out more than 70,000 entrants to win the Tiny Desk Concert Contest for his raw and powerful sound. He is bringing that sound to Brighton Music Hall this month.
SD: Congratulations on your recent NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert win. How has this win advanced your career?
FN: Tremendous! It has really shined the spotlight on my music. Before the contest, I was in the streets playing music and having a great time. I would play anywhere I could find people. It has really placed my career on steroids. I am happy that the NPR took the chance to help expose black roots music to the world. I think it was very brave of them to choose me.
SD: What is the background to your winning original song “Lost In A Crowd?”
FN: The video is finally available to watch on my website. I wrote the song a week before the end of the contest. A friend of mine told me that I was a little self-absorbed and I should stop writing about myself and write about people. So, I took to the street to try and catch the pulse of people and the words just started flowing. I really had to remove myself and get a better view of the everyday lives and emotions of people.
SD: How did being one of 14 children and raised in a Muslim household influence you musically?
FN: My family is very conservative. My dad taught us to have good values and to respect all. I am glad I was raised in that kind of environment. He taught us also to love and respect all even if they had different beliefs from us. As for my songwriting, I pull from my own experiences. I was a freak and an outsider growing up. We were the only black family living in the Berkshires back in the 70’s. Being one of 14 helped me with my performance skills. I was always starving for attention [he laughs]. In a family of my size, you quickly learn to fight for any attention.
SD: You refer to yourself as a “musician reborn.” What was the first steps you took in reinventing yourself?
FN: After my deal with Interscope went south, I quit music and I become a farmer and started my family. After a five year hiatus, my musically inspiration flowed again after the birth of my son. One night, he wouldn’t go to sleep, so I played a song for him on my guitar. The look on his face was pure and exciting and that was my slow walk back to music. I believe, sometimes, you have to lay down your dreams for a while only to journey back to them as a much stronger person. What I love about black roots music is there is a real honestly to it. I wish as a black culture we celebrated it more. I am often saddened that our kids don’t know who Delta blues singer Skip James or Robert Johnson are. We really need to celebrate and give these great artists the respect that they deserve.
SD: Your road to success hasn’t been an easy one. What advice do you have for anyone wanting to give up on their dreams?
FN: Be real! Surround yourself with friends that are real. You want the kind of friends and family that will tell you the truth about yourself. I find that the truth is liberating. I always try to walk toward the truth and the light.