Chino Amobi recently tweeted that “the best compliment” he got about Paradiso was that it was “unlistenable.” Paradiso is the latest full-length from the Richmond-based producer and co-founder of NON Worldwide, a record label and resistance movement centering the artistry of musicians from within the African diaspora. The album’s sprawling 20 tracks brim with industrial beats, MIDI horns, and the raw power of his own voice—as well as the sounds and voices of his many collaborators, including Dutch E. Germ, Elysia Crampton, and Moro.
Ahead of Amobi’s live set on July 20 at St. Vitus, AdHoc spoke with the musician and organizer about the liberatory politics of Paradiso, and how difficult music can amplify marginalized voices.
Your new record is incredibly rich—there’s so much going on in every song. Could you talk about the process of composing these tracks?
I just wanted it to be something different, to have a moment where I liberated myself sonically from a lot of the stuff that I hear—[stuff] that people classify as “electronic.” These tracks are in conversation with so many artists, so many people that inspire me. I really wanted to go all over the place—to do things that were not only challenging for myself, but also challenging for the listener. I wanted to construct a narrative that felt cinematic.
That’s kind of the way my mind works, too—I’m inspired by so many different themes within the span of a day or an hour, and I really wanted to respect that thought process. If you look into my work, I don’t really have a style—I do, but I don’t.
The siren, the sound of shattering glass, these sounds provide contemporary club music with an ominous sense of drama. They are anchors placed in an otherwise abstract form, both indices of reality and fabrications. Yet, as Chino Amobi (formerly Diamond Black Hearted Boy) deploys them, they stage a different tangible/intangible dichotomy. The Virginia-based artist’s remix of Michael Jackson’s 1996 single “They Don’t Care About Us” locates the song in a whirlwind of street-level chaos. The original was a protest song and a personal explosion, written in the context of a humiliating strip search and the 1992 LA riots. Amobi’s remix conjures the embodied experience of protest and the mobile network of solidarity activated by looking outward. Amobi’s position as one third of Non Records, a collective of African artists, both from the continent and the diaspora, is significant. In this light, the song resonates with both the massacre in Charleston and the deportations of black Dominicans in the DR.
You can stream "They Don't Really Care About Us (Remix)" via Non Records' SoundCloud.