Fantastic Negrito at Bernie rally, Crissy Field by Joshua Huver 2

One of Oakland’s fastest-rising stars in the last few years has been Xavier Dphrepaulezz, more recognizable as the soul-blended and bluesy musician Fantastic Negrito, and who could better be described as a comet.

His early career in the ’90s was more bust than boom, and a near-fatal car accident in 2000 put Dphrepaulezz in a coma for three weeks, causing him to not pick up a guitar for nearly five years. His fingers were still crooked from the accident, but he had just enough mobility to play a G chord for his son in an attempt to stop him from crying, bringing himself to learn The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” and playing it to him every night for a year.

By 2015, Fantastic Negrito emerged from the pines with his breakthrough NPR Tiny Desk Contest performance, and this year shouted his story and observations in a chronicle titled The Last Days of Oakland (check out our own praise for it here). A fresh take on the Lead Belly classic “In The Pines” (a tune that cemented itself in contemporary culture during the ’90s with Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance of it) is the latest song off of Last Days to be prominently featured.

“The song created an opportunity to express my deepest admiration for black women who bury their children due to gun violence, and all mothers throughout the world that hold the fabric of society together,” said Dphrepaulezz. “So many single mothers left to raise children alone, left to bury those children alone. I have never witnessed such strength and resilience.”

With that in mind, the track was chosen for a brief docu-narrative video directed by Rashidi Natara Harper with a focus on the impact of gun violence in America. Filmed weeks before the pivotal deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police officers, the message behind the project comes at a very necessary time.

“I lost a 14-year-old brother, a 16 year-old cousin and my best friend in junior high all to gun violence,” said Dphrepaulezz. “My rendition of “In the Pines” and the video is very personal to me. I hope it is a contribution to the human family. That is always my intention — to contribute something of value.”

Watch the video here: