It means something to be from Oakland. The tiny city that birthed the Hell’s Angels, the first sports team in black, and America's oldest street dance, has always been ground zero for counterculture. It is a place where violent crime, art and swagger converge. It has always been diverse. It has always understood that danger and edge are critical ingredients for art and culture.
But Oakland is changing. As its neighbors, San Francisco and Silicon Valley, spill over with money, the economy in Oakland is soaring. Young entrepreneurs and aspiring artists are attracted by the city's perceived "renaissance." Oakland is becoming whiter and safer. Now Oakland is ground zero for the national discussion on gentrification.
Fantastic Negrito—the project of frontman and songwriter Xavier Dphrepaulezz—bridges Oakland's future with its legendary past. Xavier is a wounded veteran of the city once claimed by Black Panthers and hustlers. He is a vital voice in what the New York Times called "the hottest city in America."
His album The Last Days of Oakland is about the fallout and rebirth that comes in the wake of a seismic shift. It is intensely relevant -- the way his city has always been.