Whenever Xavier Dphrepaulezz picks up his guitar, the Oakland musician said he’s playing the music of his ancestors — and so is every other musician.
Music’s black and African roots are a “tremendous contribution” that today’s black youth aren’t being taught enough about, said Dphrepaulezz, whose stage name is “Fantastic Negrito.”
“Wherever I go in this world, they are playing the music of our ancestors — it’s at jazz festivals, blues, hip hop, rock and roll, EDM — it’s a tremendous the contribution and I don’t think we do a good enough job informing our young people of the tradition we are from, of their wealth,” said Dphrepaulezz. “They have no idea there is an entire world out there — and I’ve been there– that’s emulating everything [they] do, the way [they] walk, dress, speak, play. It’s unbelievable.”
Alongside San Francisco School Board President Stevon Cook, the two-time Grammy winner on Saturday addressed several dozen people who attended a free concert hosted by Macy’s in downtown San Francisco to celebrate black culture and history.
Throughout the month of February, Macy’s is hosting events featuring black leaders in the arts, film, fashion, music and those “continuing to inspire culture today.”
“It’s a great way to get the community involved,” said Macy’s spokesperson Kelley Crane.
Cook, a native of San Francisco’s Bayview District who has taken the lead on addressing a long-standing achievement gap affecting San Francisco’s black students during his tenure on the school board, participated in the event for the second consecutive year and said that the company is “doing it the right way” by inspiring “civic pride” and honoring black leadership.
He added that he views Black History Month as a time to “gather as family to celebrate the legacy of our people and instill in our children a message of affirmation and responsibility.”
Following a performance by Dphrepaulezz, the musician and the education leader spoke candidly about overcoming struggles that black youth continue to face today.
Dphrepaulezz, who ran away from home at age 12 and said he bounced between foster homes in West Oakland and Berkeley for much of his teens, said he was a former drug dealer who “helped destroy my community,” and said that he has compassion for young people “struggling with the American Dream,” which he said is based on materialism.
“A lot my friends growing up died for ‘stuff,’” he said. “What good is ‘stuff’ when you’re dead?”
A near fatal car accident was among the many experiences that helped place Dphrepaulezz on a more conscious path, both musically and personally, he said.
“As I have gotten older I’ve learned to just look at people [and think], ‘you must have came from a lot of BS and a lot of troubles and struggles, and that’s why you are the way you are,’ so I’ve learned to forgive people for their negative sides, the dark, the bad, the evil sides,” he said. “Even for hatred and bigotry — because that’s what you’ve learned and that’s terrible. I can forgive you for that.”