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Fantastic Negrito Returns, With Arrows Aimed At A Culture That's 'Lost Its Way'

"I wanted to come out swinging. With everything happening in the world, I wanted to take it head on." And with that, Fantastic Negrito sends a sound wave blast aimed straight at what he sees as our culture's evils. "Addiction, guns, censorship, overconsumption. I wanted people to feel like this is our song, our rallying cry: Let's tear down the walls that separate us and face who we really are."

Those themes fuel "Plastic Hamburgers," this new song from Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz, better known as Fantastic Negrito, from his soon-to-be-released album, Please Don't Be Dead.

"I wrote this album because I fear for the life of my black son," Xavier wrote to tell me. "I fear for the lives of my daughters. I am uncertain about what kind of future they will face. Will someone shoot up their school? Will they become addicted to prescription pills? Will they wind up on the street, sleeping under freeways and overpasses? Will the police murder my son? I came up with the album name Please Don't Be Dead because I felt like we'd lost our way as a society — and I know what happens when you chase the wrong things. It's the story of my life."

The song draws on inspiration from traditional bluesmen, and sets fire to that music much in the same way that Led Zeppelin did. Inspirations from artists such Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Big Joe Williams, Buddy Guy and so many more are there to, as he says, "honor the pioneers of black roots music. This album is rooted in the tradition of blues, in the tradition of riffs, in the tradition of chants... all of which foster unity in the community." In fact, there are photographs in this video provided by Dick Waterman and Terry Abrahamson, folks who took photos of many of those legends and helped preserve their memories.

I first met Fantastic Negrito back in 2015 — from thousands of submissions to our very first Tiny Desk Contest, we selected him and his band as that year's winners. Last year, he won a Grammy for the Best Contemporary Blues Album for 2016's Last Days of Oakland. The new album,with its intense fervor,should make that two years in a row.

"I think we live in fiery times, and we need a fiery response. We need to stand on the front line as artists and respond aggressively with the power of culture, music, sound, art and film. Art and culture are the greatest weapons against hate agendas, entrenched ideologies and power structures that harbor and promote the business of divisiveness. We must meet that with the business of unity."

Please Don't Be Dead is out June 15 on Cooking VinylBlackball Universe.

Track listing:

"Plastic Hamburgers"

"Bad Guy Necessity"

"A Letter to Fear"

"A Boy Named Andrew"

"Transgender Biscuits"

"The Suit That Won't Come Off"

"A Cold November Street"

"The Duffler"

"Dark Windows"

"Never Give Up"

"Bullshit Anthem"

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In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.