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Behind the Record with Fantastic Negrito: Episode 4 – ‘Please Don’t Be Dead’

Nearly a year of work all comes down to this.

Fantastic Negrito is preparing to headline his first ever show at the historic Fillmore in San Francisco. Earlier in the day, his sophomore album Please Don’t Be Dead was released and tonight, the North American leg of his tour kicks off in his own backyard.The

The Oakland native, née Xavier Dphrepaulezz, has come a long way, and bucked seemingly insurmountable odds to be here tonight. From losing a million dollar record contract after a devastating car crash put him in a coma, to busking at BART stations, to being displaced from his artist compound in Oakland in the middle of recording his latest album, Xavier has fought back from a number of setbacks. Tonight is a celebration of triumphs.

“It all started three years ago across the street at The Boom Boom Room,” Xaviers’ manager Field reminisces, staring at the club’s bright neon sign. “We would pull up and play to maybe 30 or 40 people. About three years later, he’s headlining at The Fillmore. It just feels good.”

The mood before the show is loose, but focused. “I’m a bit nervous. There’s always a bit of insecurity going into a show,” Xavier admits as I sit with him in his dressing room.

Any nervousness or insecurity is channeled in to a state of hyper-focus. Xavier approaches everything from load-in to sound check with the utmost professionalism and efficiency. After sound check Xavier takes a moment gaze at the hundreds of show posters that adorn the second floor balcony, taking in the history that has graced the Fillmore stage.

“Tonight is going to special.” Xavier whispers to me as we look around the room.

Special turned out to be an understatement.

Once Xavier hits the stage, the anxiety and nervousness disappear instantly. Xavier commands the room, taking the audience on a musical journey through their own emotions. From the opening notes to the encore, Xavier’s charisma burns the room, and the emotion that escapes with every word sends chills up my spine. This is a man possessed by the overwhelming urge to spread his message through his music, with a gift for taking us along for the ride.

This is what music is supposed to feel like.

Having watching Xavier write these songs so many months ago in Blackball Universe, I knew they were good. But watching the crowd react, I realized just how powerful they actually are, and how much of an impact Xavier could make with his music. But Xavier has little use for hypotheticals.

“When I started on this journey I went right to (people), right to the streets, to the train stations, and that’s what this is all about,” Xavier states as he reflects on the past three years. “If something like (fame) happens, well, it happens. Then I’ll be able to eat. But if not, I just keep going.”

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