It was a surprise when Fantastic Negrito won the Best Contemporary Blues Grammy for his album The Last Days of Oakland.
This is significant because other recent winners include Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter and Charlie Musselwhite. All brilliant artists now past their prime—in other words, Grammy bait.
But Fantastic Negrito doesn’t fit that categorization at all. The 50-year-old Oakland resident has created a bombastic mosaic of black roots music in the vein of a politically conscious Alabama Shakes or a funkier Hurray For The Riff Raff. Using hip-hop samples, gospel-fueled vocal hysterics, organ blasts and ’70s guitar riffs, he channels and updates the politi-funk of artists like Sly & The Family Stone.
Negrito’s world-weary stick-to-it-iveness does in fact make him a spiritual successor to the tradition of blues music. Much of his music is critical of the lingering poverty and racism that manifested blues in the first place. Check out standout tracks like “Working Poor” or “Transgender Biscuits” from new album Please Don’t Be Dead.
Hard to believe, but the Grammys get it right sometimes.
Fantastic Negrito plays Urban Lounge, Saturday, June 30. Tickets are available here.