My Page: Fantastic Negrito “Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?”
Fantastic Negrito has just been received a Best Contemporary Blues Album nomination for his album, Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? Here he discusses some of the record’s themes…
The future seems so uncertain—right?
Well, no. I believe that the future is very certain. Human beings are very predictable. We are destructive, excellent and innovative; we are enslavers, travelers, lovers, fighters, haters, builders and inventors. We run the full spectrum. So what’s up with us? What have we become? Has America failed? Is the great empire crumbling? Is the shining light on the hill dimming? Are we so shortsighted, capitalistic and material-obsessed that we cannot stop and let the Earth heal?
I say, “#DearBillionairesPlease SaveUs”—help us out with our rent, car payments, mortgages, student loans and insurance payments. I promise we will give it all back to you when this virus passes. I guarantee we will spend the money you give us on things that we do not need, and I guarantee we will spend it with you.
We seem to be in love with billionaires. We handed our power over to their corporations years ago. They are the new governments of the world. What do presidents do besides make lofty promises that their corporate masters will never allow them to keep?
(OK, with that being said, please still go out and vote!) We are watching our country fail at fighting a virus that seems like very basic science to the rest of the world—New Zealand, Korea, Taiwan and Germany, just to name a few countries handling the pandemic better than us. We are the only country that has a certain demographic that believes it’s a violation of their human rights to be asked to wear a mask so that they do not kill our elders or those with compromised health issues.
Can we finally solve the race problem? We can if we have the willpower. We can if we choose to actually communicate with each other. Honesty can solve most problems. Are we really ready to be honest with each other? I am talking about saying the things we say to our closest friends. Are we ready to admit our deepest, darkest fears? Are we ready to face our hypocrisy? Are we ready for accountability?
I am a huge fan of accountability. I am not comfortable playing the victim in the movie in my head. My life has great value to me. I don’t think we need to force people to accept us or that we need to seek their validation— as if they reign supreme in the universe like a superhero.
Despite any of this, I remain one positive motherfucker. I can’t help it. I’ve lived it all. It all happened to me. Maybe I am the truest embodiment of the American dream, ever.
I think we are going to ask ourselves, “What did I do with my time in 2020?” We are going to look back and evaluate what we did or didn’t do during the quarantine.
What did I do with my time? I wrote an album about mental illness and called it Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? I am not talking about the obvious mental illnesses; I’m not talking about people who are walking down the street babbling to themselves. I wrote it about my friends. I wrote it about you and I. How do we cope in this age of mass information?
How do we stay sane, being fed—or should I say being sold—information?
How do we accept the killing of unarmed Black people by the police and these random senseless mass shootings as commonplace?
What about the American dream bullshit? They say, “You can be rich one day!” Yes, just keep sucking the bank’s tit! Yes, keep borrowing; keep making credit card companies filthy rich from interest rates that make the Mafia loan sharks look like holy men.
How about celebrity worship? There seems to be a notion we sell to our youth that, if they do not become famous at some point in their life, then they have failed.
I really needed an escape from the mainstream dogmatic media machine that tells you what to think, what slogans to say and who to scream them at. Human expression saved me. It’s a tradition that I come from. My predecessors, my ancestors, used the healing magic of Black roots music— blues and Negro spirituals— to get through one of the most traumatic and tragic events in the history of humanity.
I know, I get it, “Shut up, Black people talking about racism.” I actually really do get it. My father was an immigrant. I was lucky he taught me never to quit. He taught me that there is an institution of racism out there and that it will suffocate you if you do not have tools to circumvent it. He would say, “These people aren’t special, go outwork them—go out-hustle them.” I was fortunate to have a father that was present and gave me the tools to navigate through the tumultuous American landscape of systemic injustice. Then he kicked me out of the house when I was 12 and I never saw him again.
But I am actually not bitter.
Is there justice in America? Yes, just as long as you’ve got some money!
Anyway, all of this stuff wore my nervous system down, so I decided five years ago to go make records. Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? is my third album. I was fortunate to connect with E-40 and Tank, of Tank and the Bangas, for a few tracks. This music saved my life. I think it can save yours, too, or at least get you off your ass to do something.
Fantastic Negrito released his latest album, Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?, in August via Cooking Vinyl. The LP features collaborations with Tank Ball and E-40.#DearBillionairesPleaseSaveUs.