Interview: Fantastic Negrito

This past weekend I sat down with Grammy award winner Fantastic Negrito at Bourbon & Beyond. We talked music, comebacks and collaborations. It’s hard for me to categorize his music though my one and only attempt would be: DOPE! If by chance you have not heard his The Last Days of Oakland album I suggest you do so quick, fast and in a hurry!

Will you describe your style of music to people who may be unaware of who you are?

FN: I describe my style as black’s roots for everyone.  Edgy, raw, blues with a punk attitude. Like I have all those mixtures… blues, funk, rock, punk, soul – it’s an amazing garden to pick from.

So you KILLED it on stage! They loved you…

FN: I know how to do a show! That’s what I think I’m best at. I’m a songwriter and a showman!

As an artist it’s tempting to settle into a comfort zone and do “what’s working.” How do you avoid that trap?

FN: My comfort zone is to be uncomfortable. I like to be challenged and to be a contributor. To do this music with the intention of contributing usually works out well.

Who are some artists you have worked with recently?

FN: I did a song with ZZ Ward called Cannonball that we performed here today and I also worked with Mistah F.A.B. and Zion I on The Oakland Resist-Mix.

Do you have any other collaborations in the works or better yet is there an artist that you’re itching to work with?

FN: I’m on tour with Sturgill Simpson I think we’ll definitely do a collab, I think we’re definitely gonna cook something up, we keep talking about it.

I’m going to just throw this out there and I know it doesn’t mean anything but I’d love to see you do something with Gay Clark Jr.

FN: I have something in the works with Gary Clark Jr. it’s just a matter of if he gets to it. There’s a song called Chronic Pain, I don’t know if he’s gonna get on it or not but I hope so.

Do you mind speaking on your past and how it impacts your music?

FN: Sure, the road that I’ve traveled… man the things that don’t break us down makes us stronger. My story goes in three phases. I started off wanting to be some big star - got signed to a label for a million bucks. The second phase is losing all of that. I was driving down the street one day in LA and I simply woke up three days later I was in a coma, lost my playing hand and then I delved into the underground music life, ran a few afterhours and illegal night clubs - that was fun. And I had a lot of incarnations I had stuff like Chocolate Butterfly, Blood Sugar – I was just having fun then I decided to quit/retire I sold all of my stuff because I never thought that I would play again. I went up to Oakland, CA my hometown and decided to become a cannabis farmer.  Got out of music for five years and then BOOM! Came back as Fantastic Negrito. I came back and those have been my three different phases, going out and then coming back and I think that’s okay. It’s okay to quit, put something down for a little while.

What brought you back to music?

FN:  Well I had a son. My son brought me back. I couldn’t put him to sleep one day and I just had a raggedy guitar hanging around the house and I just picked it up and played like a G major and that changed the course of my life because his reaction to it was so beautiful that I decided maybe there’s something to this music. So I slowly started playing again and came up with Fantastic Negrito and I haven’t looked back.

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