There are few more misemployed words than “delight”. Defined as “great pleasure”, it’s often used as part of sarcastic derision, exaggerated enthusiasm or cold indignation. A word once destined for joy becomes one of hate. In its truest form, however, and with no sense of exaggeration, ill-intention or satire, Negro Impacto are a delight.

The Dundalk duo’s gorgeous blend of luscious vocals, melodic and understated in equal measure, and shiny, oozing production has been a joy to behold since they burst onto the scene in July of 2021.

Having spent the latter weeks of the first lockdown experimenting with styles and instrumentation, singer Chi Chi and producer StrangeLove arrived fully-packaged, with a wealth of material in their back pocket ready to capitalise on their initial, unexpected success.

It all came together so seamlessly, as though it was meant to be. For anyone who has heard their work, especially their debut Lockdown Syndrome, they are happy they did.

Photos by Issey Goold

Essential Listening

  • Lockdown Syndrome

  • Mini Excursion

In conversation over Zoom, Chi Chi’s energy and enthusiasm is balanced perfectly by StrangeLove’s thoughtfulness and consideration. Within moments of talking to them, it’s clear that they are as surprised as anyone at the pace with which their listenership has grown.

Despite the group’s short life, they have already played shows across Dublin and Ireland, including support slots for The Mary Wallopers and Glasshouse Ensemble.

We’re glad things have slowed down a bit so we can take it all in and pat ourselves on the back,” StrangeLove admits of a whirlwind six months. “It’s nice to be able to breathe and see what we’ve been able to achieve already given everything that’s going on”.

Chi Chi and StrangeLove’s families were close, but by some strange circumstance, their lives orbited each other without the pair ever truly interacting. That changed when they met while skating at Weaver Park in Dublin 8. “I’d never seen him before,” Chi recalls of their introduction. “But from that day on our friendship grew and developed into what it is today”.

After realising they lived around the corner from one another, the pair spent days on end in Lockdown 1 skating around Dundalk and chatting about how they want to spend their lives.

One day, Chi confided in StrangeLove that she wanted to start creating her own music, and StrangeLove, who had years of production experience under his belt, offered to help her make some beats. Over time, they started sending ideas back and forth, until one day Chi opened her emails to find the beat for Lockdown Syndrome.

I thought it would be cool if she tried to sing on it” StrangeLove adds, “And she did! She sent it back and that was the first song we ever made and it’s been pretty much smooth sailing ever since”.

“It wasn’t as linear or analytical, we just wanted to release it. We didn’t even know if people would like it, we just knew we liked it so we put it out”.

Rather than jump to release the track immediately, the duo kept working quietly on a series of songs, laughing as they went. Once they amassed a collection, conversation turned to how best to present their work, at which pint it was decided it would be cool to form a duo.

Inspired by a phrase he read on the back of a spray-paint can, StrangeLove suggested Negro Impacto. “I thought it sounded like a superhero name” he laughs, smiling.

Lockdown Syndrome, Negro Impacto’s debut single, was released in July of 2021. Smooth in texture and guided by the pair’s undoubted chemistry, the track quickly garnered attention across the land, reflecting on life in lockdown, and the effect it was having on the health and well-being of young people across the world.

Rather than stand still and reap their just rewards, the pair quickly jumped back into action and released their debut, self-titled EP three months later.

The five-track project sees Negro Impacto jump between styles and tempos seamlessly, highlighting that no mere genre-boxing was going to hold them back.

We always knew we were going to put out an EP if we worked together, and the songs naturally fit together because they were all recorded in the summer around the same time so they had the same feel to them and fit into that narrative.” StrangeLove explains of the project.

It wasn’t as linear or analytical, we just wanted to release it. We didn’t even know if people would like it, we just knew we liked it so we put it out”.

“We have a lot of ideas we want to exercise through Negro Impacto”

Again, rather than soak in the praise, the duo followed-up their work with a remix EP ‘Negro Impacto: StrangeLove Edits Vol. 1’ in the lead-up to Christmas. With his introduction to production coming through DJ’s and dance music, the idea of remixing and reworking your own work even after its initial release was something that came naturally.

I always did it myself when learning how to make beats and even now,” StrangeLove explains. “The likes of Jamie XX’s remix album for Gil Scott-Heron definitely had an impact on me and how remixing songs breathes new life into tracks”.

As life slowly but surely falls back into something resembling normality, Negro Impacto are preparing for what’s set to be a hectic 2022.

Unlike their early recording sessions in lockdown, the pair are juggling careers and friendships as well as music, making time spent creating and working on tracks more sparse than ever.

It’s tough juggling everything,” StrangeLove admits. “We’ve got life and our own personal goals we want to achieve outside of music so it can be hard finding times to get things done, but we are aware we only get this chance once and we want to give it our best shot

Despite the potential challenges, there’s no doubt Negro Impacto are equipped to rise even further up Ireland’s pack R&B ranks. “We have a lot of ideas we want to exercise through Negro Impacto,” Chi Chi smiles.

While music is the main focus, we have other outlets and ways of being creative that we want to showcase a bit more this year. To me, as long as they’re within the Negro Impacto universe, it doesn’t matter!

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