Fantastic Negrito

Following his controversial arrest last year at Outside Lands, Oakland’s Fantastic Negrito has been making slow and steady strides to sublime musical greatness. Ahead of the release of his highly anticipate debut record The Last Days of Oakland, he took to Nic Harcourt’s Transmissions with a chilling rendition of the almost 150-year-old American folk standard “In the Pines.”

All piano and voice, Xavier Dphrepaulezz lets pure soul seep through the song’s sparse sounds. He strips it to its bare bones; instead of the standard guitar, he opts for piano, oscillating through the simple chord cycle as he croons on top. By distilling it to such a pure form, the song’s peculiarities stand out. For one, the bluesy, diminished chords are downright spine-tingling.

Simply put, Dphrepaulezz says more by doing less. There’s something about the song being played in a quiet room, with the lights down low, that really speaks to the song’s power. The mood of the entire performance feels calculated, yet completely effortless, and that mood is pure, pure blues. You can watch below.

For a side-by-side comparison, here’s one of the earliest recorded versions of the song, from bandleader Leadbelly in the 1930s.

‘The Last Days of Oakland’ is out June 3rd on Blackball Universe.