Guest Reviewer: Brad Wheeler, music writer for the Globe and Mail

Fantastic Negrito Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? Cooking Vinyl/Warner

Though the title of the Oakland-bred bluesman Fantastic Negrito’s third album ends in a question mark, it’s more a reasonable suggestion than a question looking for an answer. Because if you’re not out of your mind these days, you’re probably not paying attention.
“All kind of things can happen in the world,” chants the artist who was born Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz, on the hand-clapped interlude Shigamabu Blues. Sure, all kinds of things can happen – we knew that. But all at the same time?
It’s been five years since the former drug-dealing hustler won NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest and became Bernie Sanders’s favourite blues artist on the strength of what the musician called “black roots music for everyone.” His sound is modern and electric, with elements of gospel, hip hop and R&B. Grammy voters have twice awarded Fantastic Negrito their famous award.
Sweaty, audacious and in your face, his new album is socially conscious lyrically and versatile musically. Lead track Chocolate Samurai is hotter than Stevie Wonder’s July and just as funky. I’m So Happy I Cry, featuring vocals from slam-poet Tarriona “Tank” Ball of New Orleans’ Tank and the Bangas, is a muscular revival tent dirge.
On his first two albums, Fantastic Negrito touched on hot-button topics including gun violence, the NRA, preying pharmaceutical companies, gentrification and homelessness. “On this album,” he explains in a press release for Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?, “I wanted to write about people I knew, people I grew up with, people whose lives I could personally affect, and whose lives have impacted me.”
Late-album cut King Frustration was inspired by a drug-addicted cousin. It stomps, it rides a wild seventies-style organ solo, it pleads “No more, no more, no more.” On the final song Platypus Dipster Fantastic Negrito asks, “What is this blues thing, man?” It’s a legitimate question, one he answers with graceful aggression and mind-bending exploration.

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