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Chino Amobi

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Amobi started making music at the age of 12, cobbling together rudimentary beats and rapping occasionally with his brother, who now goes by Chichi the Eternal. But it wasn't until art school at Virginia Commonwealth University that his collagist composition style—and feelings of alienation from mainstream American culture—began to take shape. A performance and sound art project called Diamond Black Hearted Boy, which he started in college and continued until age 30, cast Amobi as a Bowie-like figure, teleporting in from different realms of time and space. On some of the dozens of releases he put out under the moniker—mostly standalone tracks he posted to Bandcamp—he appears on the album art with glowing purple eyes; others had Blade Runner-indebted artwork, and release dates set far into the future. But alongside these provocations—which Amobi admits were "very art school"—he gradually made futuristic noise his trademark, combining pointillist synths, distended drones, and gunshot samples into what felt like reconnaissance missions into a great staticky unknown.

What he ended up finding in that void, he says, was himself. "Diamond Black Hearted Boy was like a mask," he says, explaining his decision to drop the moniker in favor of his own name last year. "There's nothing I'm hiding behind." After years of making music pseudonymously, he'd come to believe that there was something more radical about eradicating the "division between the sound and [him]self." So he did in his music, and co-founded NON to champion other people who wanted to do so, too. "There's certain voices—young people of color—you don't see propped up," he explains. "It's huge just to put those voices at the forefront, to offer them economic and aesthetic autonomy."

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