The Last Days of Oakland

Fantastic Negrito blew me so far out of the water at a recent live show—he opened for Temple of the Dog in San Francisco—that I bought my first physical CD in years. The funk, R&B, rock and soul had me dancing from the start, but this isn’t merely foot-tapping music. The raw emotion was palpable in the chilling version of “In the Pines,” which Fantastic Negrito—aka Xavier Dphrepaulezz—turns into an ode to mothers who’ve lost their children to violence. Then came the closer, the album’s standout, “Lost in a Crowd,” which clearly expresses feelings of insignificance entangled with anger and despair. The Last Days of Oakland is a raw, unapologetic and socially conscious statement of survival. One of my favorite tracks is the spine-tingling “Rant Rushmore,” which, while fragmented on many levels, is beautiful, particularly when Dphrepaulezz drops from a high-pitched whisper to a deep, growly “Amen.” Dphrepaulezz isn’t new to music—he’s experienced major-label success and Hollywood excess. A near-death car crash kept him quiet for over a decade, but, perhaps just in the nick of time, he’s ready to be heard again.