by Zaire Saunders
‘Y’all ain’t got problems like mine …’
Directors Yvan Iturriaga and Francisco Nunez Capriles put together a locally made documentary for this year’s SF Docfest. Xavier Dephrepaulezz, perhaps better known as Fantastic Negrito, is a genre-defying artist. Incorporating blues, rock and a general disdain for the “long muddy road” he has been forced to walk along enduring hardships and restraints all across his life, such as an accident that left him in a coma, he has captured the hearts of audiences time and time again. But, this story is also an example of rebirth occurring.
Fantastic Negrito, having gone through many stages and names throughout his career, has understood the struggle one must go through to walk on the other side freer – more true to your being and the story you wish to tell. Conforming does very little for the spirit, especially if it’s in a society that has done all it can to exclude you intellectually, economically, emotionally, physically and culturally.
Within the documentary, we get a chance to hear about Fantastic Negrito’s journey from lone Black child in an all-white town up to his rebirth as a blues musician playing in the tradition of Leadbelly and Robert Johnson, as well as a great many others who preceded him.
What struck me as most impressive was his turn to cannabis growing after finding himself yet again at the door of change. Learning the importance of caring for a life aside from his own gratification, Negrito states a human proverb: “Light, air, love, good food and support; that’s what we all need.”
To see more of a man reaching deep into the soil of his soul grabbing the roots of self expression, I recommend checking out this documentary. You’ll be surprised to see the story of a “recovering narcissist,” to quote Negrito himself, has a lot of heart and selflessness within it. His willingness to defy genre, age and the current idea of a celebrity requires one to let go of ego to build – or in the case of Fantastic Negrito – rebuild an aesthetic.
With Hip Hop surmounting rock as the dominant genre on U.S charts, Negrito chooses to remain on the outside, maintaining the spirit of rebellion and his roots as a Black musician, which we all can learn from in an age where we are told who to be, how to be and when to be from birth. The age of rock star rappers has been here for a while, so it’s quite refreshing to hear the sounds and style of someone who exists beyond all conventions that make our typical celebrity.
Zaire Saunders is the copy editor and reporter for the SF Bay View Community Journalism Program, which is funded by the California State Library.