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Fantastic Negrito on struggling, succeeding and his three musical lives

Fantastic Negrito on his long road to success
Fantastic Negrito on his long road to success... 03:49

Musician Xavier Dphrepaulezz was 45 when he created his alter ego, Fantastic Negrito, four years ago. Then last year, his album, "The Last Days of Oakland," won him a Grammy. 

But it wasn't always that way.

The son of a Somali-Caribbean immigrant, Dphrepaulezz grew up in Massachusetts and on the streets of Oakland. He went by the name Xavier when he signed a million-dollar record contract in the 1990s and released a Prince-influenced solo album, "X Factor." It would be the first of what he calls his three musical lives. 

"That first life, I was at the peak of my extreme narcissism. I ended up in a car accident. I was in a coma three weeks and it ruined my playing hand, so they said," Dphrepaulezz told CBS News' Anthony Mason.

It was 1999 and he soon lost his record deal. His second life was in the Los Angeles underground playing afropunk in basement bands. By 2007, he stopped making music.

"And I quit everything. I sold my pianos, keyboards, guitars. I had no interest," he said. "I felt like I had nothing else to say and I needed a new chapter in my life, a new experience and that would be becoming a cannabis farmer, completely legal." 

His third musical life started by chance when he picked up a guitar again to amuse his young son. It turned out to be the birth of Fantastic Negrito, an artist with a new devotion to the blues.

"The smile was so big that I got excited, I felt shivers kind of going down my spine and I got a little bit scared too. Because I was, like 'What? What is this?'" he said. "I felt this deep emotion and connection to this music. I remember hearing Skip James' voice and it felt like a blanket. It was something very African about it. It was very, very interesting and so I was like I want to connect to that, these black roots."

"Fantastic Negrito became a name that I could mention these people every time I did an interview because I thought that they're so important," he said.

Despite his hand injury, Dphrepaulezz still uses it to play.

"I kind of just beat it into submission. It's very crude but it's got a lot of feeling and I think that's what Fantastic Negrito is," he said.

The musician who nearly died into 1999 now has a new album, "Please Don't Be Dead."

"I think it's maybe the American dream in some weird way. I always look at my journey like it's the American dream."

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