On Saturday, Fantastic Negrito—real name, Xavier Dphrepaulezz—brought his hip-swinging, head-banging, chin-scratching, ass-shaking fever-funk to Urban Lounge.
If there’s any criticism to level at Fantastic Negrito, it’s this—the artist wields a palette of many flavors, but all his spices get thrown in the pot every song. It makes for a set of fiery gumbos that are sometimes indistinguishable from one another.
To his credit, Negrito’s potent delivery and charismatic crowd-work supersede that issue. His performance on Saturday night was pure sex.
When the band broke into a sped-up “Nobody Makes Money,” it hit like tabasco and cocaine—it’s the sultriest song about wage slavery that Urban will hear all year. Brazilian sambas turned into Pantera-esque groove metal breakdowns. Jungle beats and war chants turned into café jazz and folk-punk. The band was tight as hell, flexing and slacking in perfect rhythm. It was often easy to lose track of whether Negrito had moved on to a new song, but at all moments, the room felt hot and dangerous.
And Negrito knows how to play the crowd:
“I only ever met my daddy two times. And one of the two times that I met my daddy, he told me—he had to grab me and sit me down because, well, you’ve seen me, I’m a damn squirrel. I can’t sit in one spot. My daddy, who I only ever met two times, told me, ‘Don’t you ever in your right mind go to Salt Lake City, Utah. And if you ever go, don’t you ever look a woman in the eye.’ I said, ‘Why, daddy?’ And he said, ‘Because those women are scary as hell.’ “
It made a for a funny intro to his song “Scary Woman,” and the crowd . . . Ate. It. Up.
Later, using the same body language as Hendrix did when he conjured flames from a burning guitar, Negrito used the bridge of “Hailfire” to act as sorcerer-conductor for the band. He summoned a volcanic instrumental break from his guitar player that made one older gentleman at a table bolt up as if to salute a flag. Even the shyest in the crowd couldn’t help but shake their ass.
The band ended the show with a mostly acapella “Never Give Up,” which was a satisfying puff of menthol after a hot and reckless summer night.
Fantastic Negrito has the colors, patterns and vision needed to make truly singular music. And as his arrangements become more and more dynamic, his music will become as jaunty and resonant as he is.