Fantastic Negrito — White Jesus Black Problems — Album Review
Alternative | Folk | Rock | Funk | Soul | Blues
A common theme with my album reviews specifically, is that I especially take a true liking towards artists that really stand out amongst the rest in today’s modern musical sphere. That could not be truer with an artist like Fantastic Negrito; the musical alias of Oakland blues/folk singer-songwriter Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz.
I first discovered Fantastic Negrito upon the release of his sophomore album, 2018’s Please Don’t Be Dead. From the moment I listened to that album’s opening track “Plastic Hamburgers”, I knew I had bumped into a uniquely cool artist. That track did a perfect job of presenting that nostalgic and gritty sense of groove that could only come from somebody like Fantastic Negrito. It gave me the impression that music was something that the artist has cherished front and centre for most of his extensive life.
From there, it didn’t take too long for Fantastic Negrito to follow up with his third studio album in 2020, titled Have You Lost Your Mind yet?. This album was a well-needed sense of feel-good funk rock for the drab days of lockdown, and only heightened my appreciation towards this artist.
Well, the time has come again, to enjoy and review Fantastic Negrito’s music for the third time as a result of the release of his fourth studio album.
White Jesus Black Problems was teased by a fair few tracks earlier on this year. Including the likes of “Highest Bidder”, “Trudoo”, and “They Go Low” (for some reason, I didn’t get round to discovering “Oh Betty” prior to the full album). But what all of these tracks pointed towards was that familiar sense of funk that Fantastic Negrito undoubtedly champions. But this time, a narrative focused on black lives and black struggles was beginning to form. The title of this album, pretty much confirms this theory.
Fantastic Negrito is incredibly good at empowering his fans both lyrically and sonically. And with the themes of this album, it gives the artist a lot more room to play around with that empowerment. In my mind, this was arguably the biggest thing that this album got right.
However, I felt like this album presented a bit of a crossroads stylistically. I am at a point where I am now very much used to the formula that Fantastic Negrito tends to go for. And a large chunk of this album, so to speak, “plays it safe” with that formula. In other, more rarer cases, the artist even simplifies this formula (perhaps for the sake of accessibility). All in all, however, it makes for a more bland experience generally.
The best of what this album offers, by all means, does go against the norm just enough to feel like a perfect progression to what Fantastic Negrito has released before. Although, I just wish that sentiment covered a larger area of the album.
Nevertheless, it should go without saying that White Jesus Black Problems is still a great album, and a means to discover Fantastic Negrito for yourself, if you haven’t already.
Favourite Tracks: Highest Bidder | Man with No Name | Trudoo
Least Favourite Track: Nibbadip