Oakland-based blues singer Fantastic Negrito has released a surprise EP, Black Roots Music, via Bandcamp in celebration of Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating when the last slaves had been set free in America. Bandcamp is currently doing a fundraiser for Juneteenth, where 100 percent of their portion of proceeds will be donated towards the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
The EP comes as a tease ahead of Fantastic Negrito’s upcoming Have You Lost Your Mind Yet, although none of them appear on the album’s track list. Fantastic Negrito announced the EP’s release on Twitter.
— Fantastic Negrito (@MusicNegrito) June 19, 2020
“Enjoy some music @Bandcamp profits go to @NAACP_LDF,” Fantastic Negrito said on Twitter.
Black Roots Music includes various bouncing, blues tracks, with four originals and one Leadbelly rework. Fantastic Negrito focuses on hardships felt by Black Americans, pointing out themes of poverty and gun violence.
The first track on Black Roots Music, “The N**** Song” throws classic blues guitars and vocals, Fantastic Negrito’s voice swaying in harmony with the rolling guitars. “I hate this song,” Fantastic Negrito sings, his voice whining through hardship. The song then picks up pace as he roars “They tried to break him down,” the biting lyrics snapping each word.
“Working Poor” incorporates a bouncing beat as Fantastic Negrito’s voice jumps from high to low. The repetitive guitars create a catchy sound, lyrics “Keep on knocking/But I can’t get in” leading into whining guitar strums. Again, Fantastic Negrito incorporates soundbites of various people stating “I can’t afford to live here anymore” and “Working just to survive,” showcasing various difficulties faced by the Black community.
“In The Pines (Oakland)” is a reworked cover of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” which had been made famous during Nirvana’s MTV: Unplugged. Fantastic Negrito sticks to the song’s swaying and sad sound, changing lyrics to state: “Black girl, Black girl, your man is gone/Now you travel the road alone/You raised that child all by yourself/Then the police man shot him down.” The haunting sound creeps through Fantastic Negrito’s reworked cover as he describes his character’s pain.
“Plastic Hamburgers” picks up the pace, keyboards lending drama to the background during the roaring guitar riffs. “Let’s break out these downs/Let’s burn it down,” Fantastic Negrito deeply sings. Including a funk break down in the middle of the track, Fantastic Negrito’s sound swings and grooves, his voice upbeat while the lyrics discuss his discontent.
“Bullshit Anthem” dives more into funk, the chorus stating, “Take that bullshit/Turn it to good shit,” as Fantastic Negrito discusses picking himself up. “I get knocked down/But I keep on fighting” his voice states, sounding slightly muffled and out of focus, as the track claps around him. The middle of the track includes another break down, the guitar and piano bouncing.
In February of last year, Fantastic Negrito released a video for his song “A Boy Named Andrew.” His 2018 album, Please Don’t Be Dead, lent him a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album, while his 2016 album The Last Days of Oakland won the award for the 60th Grammy Awards.
Black Roots Music track list:
1. “The N**** Song”
2. “Working Poor”
3. “In The Pines (Oakland)”
4. “Plastic Hamburgers”
5. “Bullshit Anthem”