Last year’s pandemic lockdown did not hamper Fantastic Negrito’s creativity or his determination to continue to put Oakland on the map and serve his community. The singer-songwriter won his third Grammy—for his album Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?—and he opened Storefront Records, an independent record label and community space, at 3431 San Pablo Ave. at 34th St., a few steps away from the historical California Hotel.

Fantastic Negrito is now working on his fourth album, under the newly formed record label, and hosting monthly community events at the lot next to Storefront Records. This is all while he continues to elevate the voices of local talent and let the world know how much West Oakland has meant to him and his career. 

The Oaklandside’s arts and community reporter, Azucena Rasilla, recently chatted with Fantastic Negrito outside of Storefront Records. The conversation touched on why it was essential for him to establish roots in West Oakland, the need for independent record labels, and how the area’s community has managed to survive the pandemic.

The video recording of that conversation (above) was first streamed on June 15 as part of The Oaklandside’s one-year anniversary event, Live-ish, a three-day celebration of our newsroom’s first year, featuring community conversations, short documentaries, panel discussions, and musical performances by local artists.

Blue Shield is the presenting sponsor of Live-ish.

Tracey Taylor co-founded Berkeleyside and, subsequently, Cityside Journalism Initiative, the nonprofit parent organization to both Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Prior to that, she was an editor and journalist whose work was published in The New York Times, the Financial Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others.