Best Roots Bandleader

Fantastic Negrito

In the mid Nineties, the famous record man Jimmy Iovine gave Xavier Dphrepaulezz a million bucks — a gesture of faith in the multi-instrumentalist, then indebted to Prince, and his first album, The X Factor. In 1999, Dphrepaulezz's career was derailed in an instant by a car crash. Eventually, he returned to Oakland, started a family, and launched another career in music without quite knowing it. As Fantastic Negrito, he wandered downtown with a guitar, accumulating loose change, fans, and eventually a band. Then, he cut a homespun video for the "Lost in the Crowd" — a hardboiled soul stomp with an acoustic arrangement — and wooed the judges at NPR's Tiny Desk Concert Contest. Now, the past echoes into the present, with labels and managers and industry types courting the Black Lazarus. And yet, you can still find him busking downtown — tending to those roots.

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