Fantastic Negrito's Grandfather Courage: an intriguing stop-gap on a fascinating journey

Grandfather Courage is a creative left-turn from genre-hopping Oakland funkateer and bluesman Fantastic Negrito

Fantastic Negrito: Grandfather Courage cover art
(Image: © Storefront Records)

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It’s been a circuitous route to triple-Grammy-winning success for Xavier Dphrepaulezz a.k.a. Fantastic Negrito. Now 55, he signed a record deal with Interscope in 1993 before a near-fatal car crash six years later almost derailed his career, prior to the creative reinvention which began with 2016's The Last Days Of Oakland.

An acoustic reimagining of 2022’s acclaimed White Jesus Black Problems recorded with his touring band, Grandfather Courage re-tells the 270-year-old story of the love affair between his seventh-generation Scottish grandmother and African-American grandfather in 1750s Virginia. 

Oh Betty is the biggest benefactor from this stripped-down approach – its feverish howl of anguish ever more potent as a rootsy funk lament. Elsewhere, Highest Bidder is recalibrated as swampy blues, while an 11-minute They Go Low is transformed into a supper-club jazz instrumental. 

If the reduction of his anything-goes sonic palette sometimes comes at the cost of his trademark eclecticism – the wacko disco groove of Trudoo replaced by a brush-assisted shuffle – it’s still an intriguing stop-gap on a fascinating journey. 

Paul Moody is a writer whose work has appeared in the Classic Rock, NME, Time Out, Uncut, Arena and the Guardian. He is the co-author of The Search for the Perfect Pub and The Rough Pub Guide.