In part three of our Behind the Record series with Fantastic Negrito we got a chance to explore exactly what went in to the writing and production of his latest album Please Don’t Be Dead. Following up on his Grammy Award winning album The Last Days of Oakland, Xavier Dphrepaulezz A.K.A. Fantastic Negrito could have employed a team of producers and musicians to work on crafting the perfect follow-up, but Xavier has always been known to do things his own way.
“This guy does everything himself, including playing all the parts on the record”, notes Field, Xavier’s manager. “When he goes in the studio, it’s like he’s a kid playing with all his favorite toys.”
That youthful enthusiasm is more than evident as you watch Xavier bounce from the keyboard, to the guitar, back to the keyboard, playfully trying out different parts on the song “Bullshit Anthem,” all while stepping up to the mic and trying out different character voices that he wants to use on the chorus. The process is not only fun to watch and listen to, but it becomes clear, this is all quite unusual.
“His process is so unorthodox”, Xavier’s engineer Migui Morales remarks with a smile on his face. “Every day I come in, it’s a new challenge.”
While the atmosphere in the studio is loose, playful, and as Migui states, “unorthodox”, it’s clear that there is no shortage of good old-fashioned hard work being put into the process. Xavier keeps a tight schedule during the months of recording, working from noon to midnight five nights a week from his Jack London studio known as Blackball Universe.
Its official! #PleaseDontBeDead is out and ready to be in your hands and in your ears. @AppleMusic has it https://t.co/hSy9E4Zjw1. #NegritoNation catch my new video for The Duffler and catch me on tour this summer! pic.twitter.com/DHYTy69fon
— Fantastic Negrito (@MusicNegrito) June 15, 2018
He’s also not afraid to scrap songs at the last minute if they don’t have the right “feeling”. Xavier reminisces about a song he wrote early on in the process of this new album that he was particularly proud of.
“There’s a song that I lost that I really thought was going to be the best one on the album”, Xavier states while lounging on an orange couch in the studio. When I asked what happened to it, thinking that maybe there was a hard drive crash and the song file was lost, Xavier responded, “It just didn’t happen. This whole thing happens where you feel it and it just happens”.
It takes an artist with a strong work ethic to throw away their favorite songs for lacking something as vague as a feeling. Xavier goes on to say that he scrapped at least 90% of the material he had prepared for Please Don’t be Dead. An artist as prolific as Xavier doesn’t stress too much about tossing songs though. “I lose songs a lot, but I’ll be back around”.
The combination of the hard work and playful vibe in the studio seem to be a recipe for success for Fantastic Negrito. The early reviews rolling in for Please Don’t Be Dead note how Xavier seemed to have done the impossible and overcome the feared sophomore slump, releasing a follow-up that outshines his Grammy Award winning Last Days of Oakland.
Watching him work on the album over the last several months it’s no surprise that the finished product is everything people have anticipated. Xavier has been focused and on a mission to spread his word, but he doesn’t care too much for what critics and tastemakers think of his album. He simply wants listeners to take away one message: hope.
“My job is to be a hope promoter. I just want to make the songs that move me, and hopefully they will move other people,” Xavier said.
Fantastic Negrito’s second album Please Don’t Be Dead is out today on all platforms. He will take the stage Friday, June 15 at the Fillmore in San Francisco for an album release show and party before kicking off the European leg of his world tour.
— Ariel Nava Photo (@arielnavaphoto) June 16, 2018