A great story bears repeating. Revisiting. Revising. And Fantastic Negrito‘s latest album White Jesus Black Problems was one helluva story, tracing his roots back seven generations and 270 years to love story between a black slave and a white indentured servant. No wonder it was one of my Top Albums Of The Year. And no wonder he’s telling it in a new way on his next album Grandfather Courage.
The soulful singer, songwriter and activist born Xavier Dphrepaulezz just announced the album, which will be a reimagined acoustic version of White Jesus Black Problems. He previously offered fans a preview of the collection’s version of Oh Betty, in celebration of its Grammy nomination in the Best American Roots Performance category. Today he released another taste of the special release with Highest Bidder (Reimagined Acoustic Version).
“If you want to take your mind, body and soul on a trip check out the reimagined recording of Highest Bidder through the lenses of my touring band,” he says. “At the time, I was listening to a lot of African drum patterns, and that definitely influenced this song. I’m trying to convey what I see when I walk down the street here in Oakland.”
Part love story, part history lesson, the multimedia project tells the defiant tale of his seventh-generation grandmother and white Scottish indentured servant Betty Gallimore who was living in a common-law marriage with his seventh generation African-American enslaved grandfather, Grandfather Courage, in the face of the racist, separatist, laws of 1750s colonial Virginia. Fantastic Negrito shares, “The incredible story of my seventh generation grandparents was so profound. I reimagined it through the lenses of my touring band. Please check it out unplugged unapologetic reimagined.”
A larger-than-life character, Fantastic Negrito’s own story is stranger than fiction. He first released an album in 1996, but a near fatal car crash in 1999 effectively ended the first chapter of his career. It resulted in him spending three weeks in a coma and initially losing almost all movement in his right hand, drastically limiting his ability to play guitar. Effectively reborn under his new artist identity of Fantastic Negrito, his career got underway when his phenomenal, charismatic performance won NPR Music’s prestigious Tiny Desk Concert Contest.
All three of his previous studio albums have won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues album: The Last Days of Oakland, Please Don’t Be Dead and Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? He has toured with artists as varied as Sturgill Simpson and Chris Cornell, collaborated with Sting and E-40, launched his own Storefront Records label, and founded the Revolution Plantation, an urban farm aimed at youth education and empowerment. He is also confirmed for several film screenings with performances and to play a show in Italy in March 2023 as guest to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
Listen to White Jesus Black Problems and check out the full-length film below, or watch my interview with Fantastic Negrito HERE.