Chen Lo and Asante Amin are Bed-Stuy-based musicians, part of a production company called Soul Science Lab that creates futuristic music that speaks to contemporary themes rooted in an African past.
In other words and to put it more simply, they’re musicians on a mission.
“We look at Africa in terms of its influence musically,” says Amin. “We’re ‘African Futurists,’ because Africa is the future. We’re into that whole notion, and so we like to depict that musically as much as we can.”
That’s how they create— an integration of African style with hip hop and western style, because, as Amin explains, it is an honest reflection of who they are.
“A lot of black children aren’t aware of the origins of the music they hear today, because the history has been diluted, lost, not passed down,” says Chen Lo. “You see the same thing happening in hip hop music. But it’s important to always look back to the source, the origin.”
Acknowledging the enormous impact music has on a culture’s direction, the duo says they want to entirely change the way the upcoming generations view music, how they source music and the conversations that take place within music.
Sound like a lofty mission? Well, considering what both Chen Lo and Amin have accomplished in their short careers so far, “lofty” is but another reason for making sure it gets done.
Chen Lo, 36, is an arts educator with a BA degree from Penn State in Media Studies and an interdisciplinary master’s degree from New York University in Art and Social Change. As a music producer, Chen Lo has already shared the stage with The Roots, Common, Erykah Badu, KRS-ONE and A Tribe Called Quest; he has toured extensively with Jazz at Lincoln Center on the Rhythm Road performing and implementing music/culture workshops and master classes in Morocco, Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, Honduras, South Africa, Senegal, Vietnam and Brazil, to name a few.
He was a frequent contributor to BET’s My Two Cents. And through Soul Science Lab, he has been the lead producer on multi-media projects with premier arts institutions including the August Wilson Center, The Classical Theater of Harlem and 651 Arts.
Proud New Orleans native Asante Amin, 32, is a saxophonist, flutist, piano player, lyricist, bandleader, producer, composer and arts educator. Asante is a 2-time recipient of the Metlife “Meet the Composer” grant and award. He was also the 2011 recipient of the Young Lion Jazz award given by the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium.
In 2013, Asante completed two successful projects– serving as the music director for an off Broadway Hip Hop Musical entitled “Sweet Billy and the Zooloos” which premiered at Summer Stage; and “Soundtrack ’63” by 651 Arts– a musical tribute to the year 1963, where Amin was creative director and composer of an 18-piece orchestra with commentary and contributions by Dr. Cornel West, poets Sonia Sanchez and Abiodun Oluwele of The Last Poets, Blitz the Ambassador and Chen Lo.
Together, the duo is putting the finishing touches on their forthcoming album Plan for Paradise.
The first single off of their album, “Gimme Dat,” was released last week on Sound Cloud/Soul Science Lab on September 30. As protest art or “artivism,” the song is a rallying cry to take back Black culture that’s been misplaced, lost and stolen, said Amin.
Chen Lo wrote the lyrics to “Gimme Dat,” and Amin produced the music. The debut track features vocals by Guinean dancer and singer, Ismael Kouyate (the featured singer on Beyonce’s “Grown Woman“) and the forthcoming music video for the track was filmed in Ghana, Brooklyn and New Orleans.
“The track is a declaration that we appreciate when our culture is appreciated, but we’re not in favor of when our culture is appropriated in ways when it was not intended,” says Chen Lo.
Amin continues, “It harkens back to topics like race records, or the fact that when black people create things, often times they are not taken seriously or given the credit they deserve until other people utilize it. So we’re hoping this will open up more dialogue around it.”
Chen Lo says the track is extremely danceable and global, because it has elements of hop hop, jazz and New Orleans second line. “So people will move to it! It will definitely stimulate thought about where we are globally, culturally.”
“The music we create… it may or may not be received properly,” said Amin. “But we know that our children will eventually find it. So what we’re creating are artifacts in the tradition of our ancestors– artifacts that are relevant today and will last forever.”
Brooklyn Readers can listen to, purchase and download the first single “Gimme Dat,” here.