Fantastic Negrito and musicians Nate Pedley ("Youngstar"), Tomas Salcedo ("The Chilean") and Ruthie Price perform "Lost in a Crowd," the winning Tiny Desk Concert Contest entry. (Video directed by R. Field)
Fantastic Negrito Wins NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert Contest
February 12, 2015; Washington, D.C. – Thousands of YouTube videos and makeshift desks later... NPR Music today announces Fantastic Negrito as the winner of its Tiny Desk Concert Contest, a search for a great undiscovered, unsigned musician. Oakland-based black roots artist Xavier Dphrepaulezz (Dee-FREP-ah-lez), who performs under the name of his music project Fantastic Negrito, won the hearts and ears of the Contest's judging panel with a performance of his original song, "Lost In a Crowd." Watch the winning video now at NPR Music. All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen, who founded the Tiny Desk Concert series, and fellow Contest judge Valerie June are announcing the winner today on NPR's Morning Edition, and NPR host Rachel Martin will interview Dphrepaulezz this afternoon on All Things Considered.
"With a video shot in a freight elevator in Oakland behind a desk made of a steel slab and a work bench, this soulful character won our hearts," Boilen said of Fantastic Negrito's performance. "Though I watched thousands of videos, the moment I heard his voice and saw such conviction to his song I thought, 'Wow, I think this guy could win.'"
Dphrepaulezz grew up playing just about every instrument he could get his hands on, but after releasing a record in the 90s that failed to take off, he took a hiatus from music making. The years that followed brought major life changes: a near-deadly car accident and the resulting coma, intense rehabilitation, marriage and the birth of his son. Now, renewed creative energy has spawned the musical project Fantastic Negrito. He chose the name, he says, as "a celebration of blackness. The 'Fantastic' is self-explanatory; the 'Negrito' is a way to open blackness up to everyone, making it playful and international." Fantastic Negrito is currently the President & flagship artist of Blackball Universe, a multimedia creative collective based in Oakland. It was in the freight elevator of his BBU building that Fantastic Negrito and musicians Tomas Salcedo ("The Chilean"), Nate Pedley ("Youngstar") and Ruthie Price performed and recorded the winning Tiny Desk Concert Contest video, directed by R. Field.
As the winner of the Contest, Fantastic Negrito will perform an official Tiny Desk Concert, to be released in early March as part of the regular NPR Music series. In addition, Lagunitas Brewing Company, a supporter of the Contest, will showcase Fantastic Negrito at its "CouchTrippin' To Austin" event happening Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at the Container Bar in Austin, Texas. Fantastic Negrito will join this already-stacked lineup - Charles Bradley, King Tuff, Delta Spirit and Heartless Bastards. For additional details about the event and to RSVP, visit http://bit.ly/18DrkNk.
"It's hella emotional to suddenly go from killing yourself, creating in obscurity to someone clearing away the clouds and saying 'we wanna help you get your music heard,'" Fantastic Negrito said after learning he was the Contest winner. "Being a Bay Area artist makes the fact that it's an NPR contest more meaningful. We're raised on NPR out here; this is a place I've always come to find music. It's definitely overwhelming."
Fantastic Negrito was selected from the thousands of entries submitted by bands and artists from all 50 states. Performances were recorded at an unforeseen variety of locations - and elevation levels - including: on top of a mountain and inside a swimming pool; at beaches, clubs and bars; and even inside mayor's offices around the country (four in total). This one performance by Fantastic Negrito and his band rose to the top of the massive YouTube queue for the six Contest judges: All Song Considered hostsBob Boilen and Robin Hilton; music producer John Congleton; and three Tiny Desk alumni — Reggie Watts, Thao Nguyen and Valerie June.
"If music doesn't move you and make you want to feel something in some way, then it's not worth it. So I was looking for someone who really, really had the ability to convey raw emotion with their voice or their music in some way. I feel like the winner really did a great job at that," said June. "When I saw Fantastic Negrito performing for the first time, it was the raw emotion that I really fell in love with. It's just really powerful to watch this video. Of course the tiny desk is there right in front of the band, and they're stuffed into a tiny corner, playing this music that seems big as the world."
The Tiny Desk Concert Contest, launched on December 2, 2014, was inspired by the music discovery that happens each week at the beloved workspace-turned-stage and NPR Music's ongoing desire to support artists. The Contest called on musicians and bands from all genres to record an original song at a desk of their choosing. Over the seven-week submission period, which ran from December 2, 2014 through January 19, 2015, NPR Music received close to 7,000 total entries, available to view on YouTube.com. NPR Music will be highlighting more standout Contest submissions over the coming weeks at the All Songs Considered blog and at tinydeskcontest.npr.org.
"Deciding on a winner wasn't easy," Boilen wrote on the All Songs Considered blog today. "People put their hearts and souls, along with a desk of their choosing, into the nearly 7,000 submissions. Some did it to win, some did it for fun. What I loved most is that regardless of motivation, people got together to do something they may not have ever done, to create something unique and something they'll be able to share with friends and family forever. I think of all the desks dragged into nature, onto hilltops, into and around oceans, through offices and kitchens, classrooms and science labs. Friends gathered and made something memorable, and that's my favorite part of this, our very first Tiny Desk Concert Contest."
Since 2008, the Tiny Desk Concerts series has presented a stage shared by well-known musicians – Adele, T-Pain, Yo-Yo Ma, John Legend, Wilco – and artists on the rise – Courtney Barnett, Chvrches, San Fermin and The Lone Bellow. More than 400 intimate performances have been recorded for the series, available at NPR.org/music, YouTube and on Roku via the free, HD-quality Tiny Desk Concerts channel.
ABOUT NPR MUSIC NPR Music collaborates with NPR's newsmagazines, public radio Member Stations and the passionate NPR community to celebrate great music in every genre. Visit NPR.org/music to find the complete Tiny Desk Concerts series, live music, extensive archives of performances, interviews and reviews of artists from all genres.
ABOUT LAGUNITAS BREWING COMPANY Lagunitas began on a kitchen stove in Northern California in 1993. From actually getting their beer into bottles and onto the streets (laws permitting) they look to the future... expanding from their Petaluma brewery into a brand new Chicago production facility, bringing their flagship IPA across the globe, and if need be, being capable of making beer on the Moon. 'Cuz wherever you go, beer speaks, people mumble.
NPR Media Relations: Caitlin Sanders Email: csanders (at) npr.org