Soul Science Lab
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Soul Science Lab

Brooklyn, NY | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Brooklyn, NY | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Hip Hop World




"African Futurists Chen Lo and Asante Amin Say, ‘Gimme Dat!’"

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.”

Asante Amin
Asante Amin
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.

Chen Lo
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.

During a performance of "Soundtrack '63" Photo:
During a performance of “Soundtrack ’63” where Amin is Music Director/Composer and Chen Lo is the Creative Director. Soul Science Lab will be presenting the next iteration of Soundtrack ’63 in New Orleans Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend in 2016, in collaboration with Junebug Productions and the Contemporary Arts Center?

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.

Asante Amin and Chen Lo of Soul Science Lab Productions, Gimmedat

“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. - The Brooklyn Reader


After hosting a successful Kickstarter campaign, Soul Science Lab, 651 ARTS of Brooklyn and Elektrik Breakfast, remounted ‘Soundtrack ‘63’, an exploration of the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s in a new multimedia format that utilizes an 18-piece orchestra led by Asante’ Amin. The millennial retrospective featured poets, talented lyricists and other influential voices juxtaposed behind a comprehensive visual experience.

‘Soundtrack ‘63’ had an initial showing in February 2013, selling out two back-to-back shows on the snowiest days of the winter. The remount is particularly timely considering recent developments involving citizen-police conflict and unjustified violence across the nation. It’s clear that civil rights are still a very big issue in the United States and ‘Soundtrack ‘63’ is necessary; it acts as a reminder and educational opportunity to communicate the reality of injustice that people still feel in 2014.

According to the playbill, the show features spirituals, protest songs, and popular music throughout the 20th century performed by an orchestra directed by Soul Science Co-managing Partner Asante’ Amin. The show included commentary by Dr. Cornel West and Sonia Sanchez alongside performances by The Last Poets founding member Abiodun Oyewole, Soul Science co-managing partner and creative Chen Lo and international Hip-Hop artist Blitz the Ambassador. Additionally, musical duo Raii and Whitney Keaton, known together as RAIIWK, performed in a vocal ensemble with Shannon Grier and Rasul A Salaam. All this was backed by a three screen photo and video display, using hundreds of archived clips of historical events, newspaper headlines and photos to create a multidimensional and visually effective show, produced by Elektric Breakfast. Mixing video content with live performance seems like a conflict of interest, but the two mediums flowed, allowing the audience to focus on either storyteller as they wish. Flashes of light and other effects gently move the audience’s attention to the screen when something is particularly important. The show was held at The New School’s Tishman Auditorium.

We spoke with Soundtrack ‘63’s Creative Director Chen Lo, Musical Director Asante’ Amin, and singers Raii & Whitney Keaton.

Chen Lo on the beginnings this project:

We [Soul Science Lab and 651 ARTS] had a conversation about what millennials think about our history and what it has to do with today and all the madness we see happening. 651 ARTS asked me if I was interested in creating something. Initially it was suppose to be a presentation of protest songs from [the ‘60’s], but I kind of flipped it. I’m a Hip-Hop artist and I have so many different roots that show in the different art forms you saw on stage tonight. I also deal a lot with multimedia; we made this thing for young people. A lot of millennials don’t know this history and we needed to make something they’d be engaged in, something they’d enjoy, and something they’d talk about, and so this was born– I called the right people, and we made it happen.

Asante’ Amin on the future of ‘Soundtrack ‘63’:

Soundtrack ’63 will be shown in Pittsburgh in January 2015 and New Orleans in 2016. This night was about getting people talking about it and people thinking about remounting Soundtrack 63 in other cities. There’s a three-prong effect: one being the actual production, two being the educational component, because [Chen Lo] and I are educators, so we have designed a curriculum around the subject matter, to use this as a visual teaching strategy in a classroom, where ever we present this, we want to have workshops and then three, we’re performers, we want to do this and still rock out on tour!

Speaking with Raii and Whitney Keaton:

Q: Why’d you get involved?

A (Raii): We are close friends with the creative director and musical director, and they reached out to us to be a part of this, but we couldn’t do the first installment [in 2013] because we were on the road with Alicia Keys, but this time we were available to be part of it.

Q: What drew you to this project? What made you think, ‘We need to be a part of this?”

A (Whitney Keaton): First of all, supporting our friends – supporting Chen and Asante’, and then realizing, today, what’s going on today- the different types of wars- it [Soundtrack ‘63] speaks just as loud as it did in 1963, I feel bringing that together, like one of the rappers said, ‘if we don’t know our history, we don’t have the knowledge, then we’re bound to repeat it’, and we don’t want it to get to rioting everywhere, though it’s already a problem. This is our generation and we are part of this generation; we are part of this world. We are all affected by events in Ferguson, we are all effected by events in Israel, and so even if it’s not in my neighborhood, I still feel it.

Q: What’s next for you guys? Do you see a vision for this?

A (Raii): This definitely has the potential to be a very impactful presentation around the world. It’s a story and a retrospective that needs to be heard. I think young people need to hear it, I think older people need to hear it. It can go as long as the people want to come and support it. The thing is, this is part of our artistry, whether we do it with this production or with other shows, our mission is to educate and entertain at the same time. We’d love to continue for a third installment.

-Benjamin Schmidt - The Source Magazine


Written by David Nazario
Those in and around New York City had the opportunity to be a part of a very special event in Manhattan last weekend. Presented by Soul Science Lab, 651 Arts, and Elektric Breakfast, Soundtrack ’63 made its way to The New School backed by a 18-piece orchestra and accompanied by a group of talented vocalists and Hip Hop and spoken word artists.
For those of you not familiar, Soundtrack ’63 takes a unique, informative, and entertaining approach to documenting the African American experience in the United States, specifically focusing on the civil rights movement and the struggles that many African Americans still encounter today. A musical retrospective in its own right, the multimedia production includes a soundtrack that chronicles everything from the assassinations of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to the killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, and the election of President Obama.
Although the video and still images of this era are at times heavy in nature, the awe-inspiring musical performances, complete with a live orchestra and DJ, make Soundtrack ’63 not only a history lesson and a call to action, but also a joyful trip down a musical memory lane. The show features songs by Marvin Gaye, Public Enemy, James Brown, and Lauryn Hill, just to name a few, and a lineup of amazing musicians including husband and wife duo RAII & Whitney Keaton (Known as RAIIWK).
Soundtrack ’63 was produced in partnership with Mosi Makori and the Star Institute. Hip Hop artist and educator, Chen Lo serves as the creative director and Tut Asante Amin, the musical director. Also, kudos are in order to the all female visual arts collaborative, Elektric Breakfast for a job well done! - Mute Magazine

"Soundtrack ’63 Will Shape Minds In 2013"

By Ingrid Ellis
Revolutionary spoken word artists, The Last Poets, and African Hip Hop artist Blitz the Ambassador will be headlining Soundtrack ’63 — a musical and historical extravaganza that kicks off a series of events titled Movement ’63. For the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the events promise to “Reflect, Renew and Remix” the year 1963 through performing arts, education, and the humanities. Soundtrack ‘63 takes place this weekend on February 8-9 at 651 Arts in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn.
Chen Lo, the event organizer, describes Movement ’63 as an interactive documentary. “We’re telling stories that have been told before, but through mixed media that will include an 18-piece orchestra playing original and contemporary songs, and a graphic animation installation shown on three screens,” says Lo.
By “stories that have been told before” Lo is referring to the well-known occurrences of 1963, which this event seeks to commemorate. “1963 is known as a flashpoint in the Civil Rights Movement,” says Lo. Besides the March on Washington organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, it was the year that Medgar Evers was assassinated, sparking outrage among African Americans. President John F. Kennedy was also assassinated that year. “It represents a boiling point,” he continues, “the transformation of a population demanding their humanity. The year galvanized what had happened prior – SNCC, CORE, the Freedom Rides.” It also set the stage for the Civil Rights and Voting Acts to follow.
How, one might ask, does music figure into all of this? “Music has always been an important part of the movement for us,” says Lo. “The music of 1963 was what emboldened people, gave them courage and created camaraderie.”
Lo was asked by 651 Arts to simply put together a “concert of protest songs.” Given creative freedom, he decided to create a multi-media event that could speak to today’s youth. “I wanted it to be more interactive and educational,” he says of the musical event that will also include interviews with Cornel West and Sonia Sanchez, for example. Lo wanted to explore “parallels to people’s current experience. How people react now versus then. What’s the level of activism?” Ideally, he imagines Soundtrack ’63 as an on-going show, touring the country. “I’m always dreaming big, but it comes down to those holding the purse strings,” he chuckled.
As an accomplished musician, MC and writer, Chen Lo also has an impressive academic background. He holds a Master in Art and Social Change. His goal is to empower youth socially and financially using the tools of the music business, teaching them to do for self. “Soundtrack ‘63 provided the opportunity for me to create the perfect interdisciplinary project,” he continues, “combining youth, community, art, intellect, production and management.”
Blitz the Ambassador, one of the featured artists of the event, identifies with the concept of being interdisciplinary. “I don’t describe myself as a Hip Hop artist. I am just an artist.” His art “comes out in many ways,” says Blitz. “I’m a visual artist, a musician, a filmmaker. Multiple things make me who I am.” He cites a diverse and surprising group of influences on his art such as the soccer player Pele, comedian Dave Chappelle, American and African filmmakers like Melvin van Peebles and Kwa Ansah, and writers like Paulo Coelho. “They are all lyrical in what they did,” explains Blitz who began exploring visual art in Ghana and has released the short film Native Son, based on his last album.
Blitz says that he is participating in Soundtrack ’63 because “It’s an important event that highlights critical and historic times. Protest was sweeping the world.” Indeed, similar events were taking place in West Africa, as well, where the Independence Movement was sweeping the land from 1960-65. According to Blitz, “Something was in the air.”
As a musician, Blitz feels intrinsically connected. “In general, music has always played a part in protest movements. Songs of the Apartheid Era. Plantation songs. They’re a means of inspiring people and creating a collective consciousness.”
Specifically, Blitz, who is from Ghana, will be performing a song called “Emmett Still” as his means of connecting to the era. He said that, coming from Africa, he had been unfamiliar with the story of Emmett Till and was shocked by the brutality of the Jim Crow era. However, he was also very inspired by the outrage and demands for civil rights that the tragedy set in motion.
As an African artist living in the United States, and having traveled the world, Blitz feels that there is a huge disconnect between Africans and African Americans. He sees his role as trying to foster understanding. “We have a shared experience that few know about. For example, Kwame Nkrumah and W.E.B Du Bois worked together to created the Encyclopedia Africana, which shapes much of the scholarly knowledge about the African Diaspora today.” Blitz notes that such collaborations still continue today, supported by the Ghanaian government, but mostly go unnoticed.
Blitz laments that most African Americans with the means to help tend to see Africa in humanitarian terms, as opposed to a land with vast cultural and financial collaborative possibilities. “Unfortunately, I am not seeing people having conversations about building with Africa.” He continues, “If I can make [working with] Africa seem desirable versus a charity, that would be my hope on how my work will influence people.”
Given his title and the socially conscious nature of his lyrics, does Blitz consider himself more of a political ambassador or a musician? “I don’t separate the two,” he says. “Without my political and social convictions I wouldn’t push music as far. And, without music I couldn’t get my message out as much. No artist can claim to separate their social convictions from their craft. I don’t think that’s possible.”
As for the role that Hip Hop plays in shaping the protest music of this generation, Blitz says, “Hip Hop is a unique tool that reaches a very wide generation. It transcends race, color and creed. People around the globe embrace it.” With a medium this powerful comes social responsibility, according to the artist. “What I do in New York influences people in Cambodia and Ghana.” He credits the powerful, politically charged lyrics of rappers like Public Enemy and Rakim as having shaped him as a youth in Ghana. “I only want to create work that will impact others as they impacted me.” - YRB Magazine


A few months ago, we chatted with married duo RAII and Whitney Keaton, together known as RAIIWK, about there new music, touring with one of world’s biggest performers (Alicia Keys), and married life. Today, we are excited to share that their next major performance will be in Soul Science Lab’s musical theater performance, “Soundtrack 63.”


This nostalgic production is a multi-media musical theater show that renews and remixes popular musical classics that gave context to the Civil Rights Movement, highlighting the revolutionary year 1963. They will perform both original music and popular classics prior to, during, and following the revolutionary year 1963 with new arrangements alongside a dynamic roster of credited poets, Hip-Hop and Jazz musicians including Blitz the Ambassador, Abiodun Oyewele of The Last Poets, John Robinson (“JR”), Chen Lo, and Asante Amin all supported by an 18-piece orchestra. The show also features commentary from Dr. Cornel West and iconic poet Sonia Sanchez. - Heed Magazine

"Chen Lo"

Chen Lo
The most challenging thing about being a consumer of hip-hop, is finding an artist who exemplifies artistic balance, and embodies the complexities of human existence in his or her work. I know…it sounds heavy. But it’s really not. All I want is an intelligent emcee, that doesn’t come across as pretentious, a hood emcee that doesn’t come across as crazy, and lastly, a good emcee – one who is mighty with the pen. Multiply that by sincerity, and the product is “my man,” (or woman). In this case, the product is Chen Lo.

Hailing from the borough of Brooklyn, Chen Lo decided to don his new mixtape, The Inkwell, an interesting title that should not be overlooked as just another arbitrary moniker that people – Black people – could gravitate toward. Instead it brings up some interesting ideas (besides the obvious, cheeky metaphor of an awesome emcee, digging deep with the pen into the Inkwell). In the popular movie “The Inkwell” after which this mixtape is named, there are two families: the family of an ex-activist, and a black bourgeoisie family. They are related, and come together at the stiff upper-crust beach community, The Inkwell. The communicative struggle the two families go through, and the different sets of ideals, only makes me question how The Inkwell relates to Chen Lo, and his work. Is he examining the struggle between both sides of Black life? Is he the example of where they meet in the middle? Is it more than just about race, but instead about the dialogue and dichotomy that exists within almost everything, i.e., love, family, dreams, and even hip-hop itself? I think he’s tackling all of the above.

Besides the title, I’m pleased to also exclaim that there’s some good music on this project. Some really good music. A few standouts include, “Don’t Go,” “Give It All Up,” and, “Roll Up.”

“Don’t Go,” a hard-hitting, soul stirring track over which Chen Lo weaves interesting tales of jeopardy, is nothing short of sharp. From discussing a child in Texas who fears his father will be lynched on his way to vote for Barack Obama, to a slimy tale of a secret relationship gone wrong, Chen Lo definitely hits the mark when it comes to imagery.

“Give It All Up,” is an anthem for any dedicated artist in a relationship, and the struggle that comes with deciding where that dedication is most deserving. But Chen Lo declares that nothing is worth the sacrifice of his family. Not even his music.

“Roll Up,” one my personal favorites, is simply a swagger track. In the first verse, Chen Lo spits fire…literally. He intricately describes his introduction to marijuana, but holds true to his integrity by ending the verse with “…though I might’ve done it, ain’t somthin’ I’m promotin.” During the space between verses, he admits that the next verse has nothing to do with the first, and that he just was in the mood for displaying his wordplay. The second verse just boasts how great he is, a timeless tradition in hip-hop, intensely stating lines like, “…labor of love and yet you lovin’ my octaves/like Lo rockin’ liberation the opera…” Black Thought? Is that you?

Chen Lo’s, The Inkwell Mixtape is more than worth a listen. It’s a necessity for all hip-hop heads searching for a seemingly whole emcee that encapsulates intelligence, swagger, and talent. And to top it all off, he has a pretty good ear for production. The beats knock hard, for all you beat junkies. The Inkwell Mixtape is a place to find dialogue (well, monologue really) about the complexities of “it all,” sometimes explicitly and other times implicitly. Either way, since it’s coming from Chen Lo, it’s always dope.

– Jason Reynolds - Okayplayer


As Told to Kimberly Jacobs

When I think about New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina, I think of a village and plenty of individuals who have a culture that allowed us to live in our own world.

I left town about a week before Hurricane Katrina. I was 23, studying music at Southern University in New Orleans. For the year leading up to Hurricane Katrina, I was getting ready to move to New York for a music conservatory. Usually when hurricanes are set to come, I never leave my city.

But my father doesn’t play with that risk. Any time the news talks about a hurricane, he evacuates. My mother stayed in New Orleans. She works as a pharmacist at Children’s Hospital and stayed there during the hurricane. Both of their houses sustained serious damage, but not as bad as people in the Ninth Ward. My mother’s place, which is in Uptown, is just now being rebuilt.

It has taken so long because of a lot of back and forth with the insurance company. They were telling her she applied for the wrong kind of insurance for what she needed to be fixed. She had to leave town for a couple of months after the storm, and then after that she was wrestling with contractors and other businesses that were trying to take advantage of her.

When I watched the news from New York, the first thing I did was call home to check on my family. I’ve never experienced a real hurricane. I thought the news was just blowing it out of proportion, and there might be some strong wind. But the night before the storm hit, the tone of news reports were unlike anything I’ve ever heard. When the mayor sounded like things were really bad, that’s when I started getting concerned. But my mom said that she was going to wait it out inside the hospital. That gave me some hope that it would blow over.

Then the levees broke. And that’s when the serious destruction happened. Once I started to see what was happening on TV, that’s when I became scared. Cell phone towers were down, so I couldn’t get in touch with my family at all. I didn’t know what was going on.

I saw dead bodies on the news, people drowning and people on top of houses. I knew my pops evacuated, but I couldn’t get in contact with my mother or sister. There was a lot of negative imagery on TV. People were dying, and the federal government wasn’t responding in an appropriate manner. I was angry because you would think something like this couldn’t happen in America. But I realized when you’re a person of color in America, anything can happen to you. You can see it now with all of these police killings.

I got in contact with my dad two weeks after the storm, but with my mom it took a little bit longer. The phones were scrambled for a while, and two weeks is a long time not to know what’s going on. I actually wanted to leave New York and come back home. But what was I going to come back home to?

As soon as I was able to get in touch with her I came back. That wasn’t until around Thanksgiving.

It was heartbreaking. Depressing. Sorrowful.

In 2012, people were talking about the world was going to end, and I remember feeling totally unbothered because my world had already been destroyed. That’s what it felt like going back home for the first time. Everything I knew, loved and considered home was totally destroyed. People were telling me to chalk it up and begin again.

By the time I came home, my mom was staying with a friend in Treme, and she ultimately ended up renting that property for the next two or three years. I remember driving around and still seeing military there and feeling like the city was under siege. I felt like I was walking around the scene of a crime.

It was hard for me to process what happened. I didn’t have a response to it. It felt like going through the process of mourning, and I was in the denial stage. In the last few years, I’ve finally been able to watch documentaries because I felt traumatized. Whenever I come home, I do gigs at different venues in the city. I have a song on my last album called “The Visitor,” and I made a couple of references to Katrina — what my theories are and the results of it. It came out as a result of feeling like I have no home. I’m like a nomad, and on the news they called us refugees. It took a while for me to process my feelings.

Amin as part of St. Augustine's Marching 100 in 1997.
Amin as part of St. Augustine’s Marching 100 in 1997.
New Orleans is always going to be home to me. I just bought a house down there. No matter what happens or where I live for a few months in the world, I’m always going to go back home, do a show there and work with children. I’m always going to do things to push the culture forward.

I’m a Mardi Gras warrior, and there’s nothing like New Orleans. Even with it changing, there will never be anything like the Big Easy. When I go home, I love to sit by the Mississippi River near the levees and practice my songs. I have timeless memories there.

I’m a teacher and a musician, but I’m also the musical director of a production, “Soundtrack 63.” It’s a historical musical retrospective that highlights the civil rights and black power movements through music. We’re in talks to bring it to New Orleans for Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. I was home a month ago orchestrating that with the Junebug Productions.

I also played a second line. Second line music is distinctive New Orleans music, and the beautiful thing is that it has cultural roots in Haiti and Africa. I didn’t always appreciate it because when you grow up there you’re so inundated with the city’s culture and history. Without getting the proper historical context, you get bored of it. When I moved away I realized, “second line is futuristic!”

Second line is like prayer making love to the city, and it feels good. Every time I go home, blow my horn and am around my people, it’s energizing This music is comes from funeral processions. The first line is the deceased and the family as a band. The second line is the people following them doing the dancing, wailing and beating the drum. I’ve even played a second line at a wedding. In New Orleans, everything is cause for a second line. I sing, rap, play saxophone, keyboard and flute. I collaborated with a friend of mine, Willard Hill, on a song he did to commemorate the 10-year anniversary.

I’ve never officially moved back home since Hurricane Katrina. I knew I was going to be in New York for at least a year in school, but after the storm I’ve been going back and forth. In the last two years, I’ve started to rebuild a life back in New Orleans and reestablish myself there.

But New Orleans is a lot different now, too. It’s being gentrified, and the gentrification and cultural annihilation in New Orleans is violent. It’s not violent physically, but the culture is being decimated. New Orleans is such a cultural epicenter of America, and we’re nothing without our culture — that’s our weapon, our bread and how we come together. We are being destroyed and appropriated, and I feel like no one is discussing it.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the city had a series of noise ordinances, and they were basically directed at the Black native brass band musicians who bring life to the city, as well as make money by playing on the corners. The ordinances made it damn near illegal for them to play and do what they’ve been doing to make the city famous.

At the same time, I’ve been seeing a lot of white musicians and dancers cropping up and attempting to play the same music, without the same complaints. It’s very clear what’s happening. New Orleans is in a perpetual power struggle. The people who run the city want the culture of Black people in terms of the music and food (that’s what New Orleans is famous for). They want the culture, so they can exploit it, but they don’t want the Black people who produce it.

I’m not done mourning because it’s like seeing one of your parents being murdered. There are so many unanswered questions, so much wrong has been done, and nobody wants to acknowledge it. What happened with Katrina is still going on; it’s not like it happened and stopped. The wrongdoing is ongoing.

The city is still not the same, and maybe we just have to create it from our memories. We have to creatively and artistically remind people of what it used to be.

The positive things that came out of Katrina is it forced the native and indigenous New Orleanians to be more organized and more in love with each other. There’s more unity, solidarity and camaraderie. We understand even more how important the culture is.

Financially, there are more opportunities coming to the city, too. You have developers bringing in certain business opportunities that weren’t there before. There’s no way I can deny these things are positive. It’s up to individuals to put themselves in positions to receive opportunities, so we can use them to continue to tell our story and turn something negative into a positive.

Musically, the elders are passing away, and we are running the risk of the culture not being passed on to the younger generation. But I also see a quiet renaissance happening with the younger generation. And it’s good and positive. That’s something I didn’t see before the hurricane. There’s a developing hip-hop scene in New Orleans that I think is going to be one of the most amazing and awe-inspiring environments in America. - Madame Noire

"The Lo Frequency"

The Lo Frequency
Very little in hip-hop is as inspiring as making politics personal. Musician-humanitarians, The Lo Frequency (formerly Chen Lo and the Liberation Family), debut their first EP The Export, as a testament to their international outreach. The seven-member hip-hop ensemble showcases an amalgamation of musical influences via expert instrumentals and soulful production, accompanied by conscious and motivational vocals from rapper Chen Lo and singer Shannon Grier.

The album’s title is a reference to the band’s extensive performances and music-based social work abroad, but it also speaks to the band’s musical perspective – one that crosses both genres and cultures. The album’s introduction features only afro-drumming and chanting and sets a musical foundation for the hip-hop genre. The album rides the sweet melodic opening chords of “Think Of.” The juxtaposition of classic jazz acoustic and electric guitar here provide a fascinating listening session. Chan Lo efficiently connects to the crux of issues involving socioeconomic status, politics, racism, and relationships. Shannon Grier’s vocals elevate the listener to find a sense of inner peace. This high energy sound transforms into a more rock-heavy sound on “Look for the Light,” with a penetrating piano backdrop. “Getting Late” shows a funk influence, and offers a suggestive sultry battle of respect and hormones. The band shines on the final track on the project, “Float Away.” With its ethereal opening, soft keyboard, detailed bass ornamentation, and electric guitar additions, this is easily my favorite track. Here, the band accomplishes an effortless synergy between female vocalist, rapper, and band.

My feelings on this album are well envisioned in its cover art: in the foreground a superfluous collage of influential jazz, soul, and blues artists of the past, with the band members’ silhouettes in the background. Essentially, there are lots of great elements here, but it also feels like a lot is happening. Within the EP, there are only five fully-grown tracks, and this isn’t sufficient room to make all the musical references the band attempts. There are plenty of moments where I craved the simplicity of the few openings chords, but was overwhelmed by a vast overlay of production and vocals. I’m further confused by their decision to trim one of the best emotive moments on the album, “Moonrise,” a 35-second (can you say tease?!) psychedelic interlude the features electronic sounds paired with mellow drumming. Expanded, this track could have given the project a fuller, distinctive flow. No doubt, the instrumentation and production on this project alone make it worth a download. What The Export lacks in focus and cohesion, it makes up for in creativity, and that was enough to leave me wanting more.

– Sandra Manzanares - Okayplayer

"Chen Lo – The Inkwell [Mixtape]"

The next album review spotlight goes to another BK emcee, Chen Lo. Lo recently put out his mixtape, The Inkwell, for free download. The tape features Murs, Jean Grae, Damaja D and more. You can also find Chen on the U-N-I tape we featured the other day. Read OKP's favorable review of the project then download the full tape here to experience Lo for yourself. Lo is a complete emcee but is perhaps best known for his clever lyricism, which you can sample below on the track "Roll Up." - Okayplayer

"The Hot Seat: Chen Lo"

Brooklyn bred emcee, Chen Lo, has a lot more on his mind than the average performer. Whether he working on “Creative Liberation,” his Hip Hop Education Series at schools and community centers in his hometown, or coordinating youth summits like he has done in Swaziland, Lo is all about using his music to impact communities in a positive way. Hot Seat sat down with musician and activist, and he shared a little bit about what makes such a dynamic artist tick.

Q: Tell us about your craziest touring experience.

A: When I was in the group, Liberation, we were invited to perform at a major Power 99 radio event in Philly. When we arrived they told us they wanted us to lose our musicians and do an experimental set with an amateur percussionist and an emcee we had never met. Keep in mind members of The Roots were present. To say the least, it was a catastrophe. It was like being caught on stage with no pants on. That day, for about three hours, I quit music.

Q: What type of college class would you most want to take and why?

A: I’d love to have taken more classes that were relevant to my life and career in music. If I could have learned all that I’ve had to learn by doing and making mistakes in college, I may further along in my career.

Q: What city in America is the most fun to visit and why?

A: I have to say New York. I know I live there, but there’s something there for everyone… no matter the vibe. And there is just so much to do and get into. I’ve been living in NY for a while, and don’t feel like I’ve scratched the surface on what the city has to offer.

Q: What’s some of the best advice you were ever given?

A: Find and live your purpose. Make everyday count. Be yourself at all times.

Q: What’s in heavy rotation in your MP3/CD player right now?

A: I’m loving Lupe, Erykah and I’m listening to Liberation Music Group stuff (my own company). We’re studying right now, and paying close attention to detail to make classic music.

Q: What’s the last good book you read or TV show you’re addicted to?

A: I just finished reading The Alchemist. If you haven’t read it…you have to. Your life depends on it.

Q: What’s the first concert you ever saw and how was it?

A: The first concert I ever saw was New Edition, Bobby Brown, Al Sure. It was incredible. I think that’s when I knew in the back of my mind I wanted to do this music.

Q: What are three items you can’t live without on tour?

A: I have to have lots of water, ginger tea and lemon, a comfortable travel vehicle and hotel room. Oh, and I can’t forget a studio link. I have to make music.

Q: Who are your major musical influences?

A: Too many to name here, but to name a few: Marvin Gaye, Pyrymyd, Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Black Moon, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Rakim, KRS-One, Miles Davis and my ancestors– who created all of this music.

Q: Any random messages or tips you’d like to give to mtvU watchers?

A: Pay attention to what’s going on in the world, and do your best to change it for the better. - mtvU

"Freedom Songs: Writing The Soundtrack of a Modern Movement"

Music has come to serve a higher purpose -- whether during rallies, marches or other forms of protest -- throughout much of the Black Lives Matter and Student Black Out movements that swept college campuses around the country last fall.

"Music, the beats, words or dance that extend from it, are a reflection of black joy and love that is present in the movement," Zellie Imani, a member of the steering committee of Black Liberation Collective, the umbrella for many of the student campus movements, told NBCBLK via email.

According to Imani, youth in Ferguson "would bring their drums to the marches and protestors would dance and chant to the beats."

Olivia Castor, a third year student at Harvard College, where portraits of Black law school professors were defaced with black tape this fall, tells of a moment where music led them to dance in the snow.

"One day last year after one of our rallies someone was blasting music on a loud speaker. An impromptu dance party happened in the midst of all of the snow covering the yard," she said. "It was a beautiful instance of how we can still find beauty and joy in the midst of the struggle for our freedom."

And according to Myles Santifer, a fourth year student at University of California, Berkeley, when they shut down the campus café students could be heard singing the popular 'Freedom Side' chant -- "Whose side are you on, we are on freedom side!"

Earlier last year Santifer, a musician and African American studies major, released an album of music driven by the movement titled, Black Power and Flowers.

"There is a lot of pain and drama associated with the history we are trying to combat," he said. "For me, I utilize art as a space of healing and connection. Music is really a space ultimately for people who are trying to connect."

The role of music lending power to a movement is nothing new. Historically, black music has provided what Alton Pollard, dean of Howard University's Divinity School, calls resistance modality for society.

Music has come to serve a higher purpose -- whether during rallies, marches or other forms of protest -- throughout much of the Black Lives Matter and Student Black Out movements that swept college campuses around the country last fall.

"Music, the beats, words or dance that extend from it, are a reflection of black joy and love that is present in the movement," Zellie Imani, a member of the steering committee of Black Liberation Collective, the umbrella for many of the student campus movements, told NBCBLK via email.

According to Imani, youth in Ferguson "would bring their drums to the marches and protestors would dance and chant to the beats."

Olivia Castor, a third year student at Harvard College, where portraits of Black law school professors were defaced with black tape this fall, tells of a moment where music led them to dance in the snow.

"One day last year after one of our rallies someone was blasting music on a loud speaker. An impromptu dance party happened in the midst of all of the snow covering the yard," she said. "It was a beautiful instance of how we can still find beauty and joy in the midst of the struggle for our freedom."

Protests Continue In DC One Day After Ferguson Grand Jury Decision
Protesters hold hands and chant as they gather outside the headquarters of the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department as part of a planned "28 Hours for Mike Brown" protest November 25, 2014 in Washington, DC. Protests have taken place across the United States in the wake of a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of 18 year old Michael Brown. Win McNamee / Getty Images
And according to Myles Santifer, a fourth year student at University of California, Berkeley, when they shut down the campus café students could be heard singing the popular 'Freedom Side' chant -- "Whose side are you on, we are on freedom side!"

Earlier last year Santifer, a musician and African American studies major, released an album of music driven by the movement titled, Black Power and Flowers.

"There is a lot of pain and drama associated with the history we are trying to combat," he said. "For me, I utilize art as a space of healing and connection. Music is really a space ultimately for people who are trying to connect."

The role of music lending power to a movement is nothing new. Historically, black music has provided what Alton Pollard, dean of Howard University's Divinity School, calls resistance modality for society.

National Guard Activated To Calm Tensions In Baltimore In Wake Of Riots After Death Of Freddie Gray
A band plays music during protests near the CVS pharmacy that was burned to the ground yesterday during rioting after the funeral of Freddie Gray, on April 28, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Andrew Burton / Getty Images
"I think back to my own years growing up as a child of the 50s and 60s and how much of the music we think of today as 'the Motown sound' possessed far deeper undertones," he told NBCBLK. "As African people in this society we are an improvisational people and our music has served as a soundtrack to our experiences."

We Shall Overcome. I Shall Not Be Moved. Gospel. Negro spirituals. Freedom songs.

Music has been integral to the genius of African people during struggles for freedom, said Pollard. He references an old African proverb that says, "The spirit will not move without a song."

"We have always understood. Martin Luther King, in those last moments before the March on Washington, when he told those around him, 'Please be sure Mahalia sings Precious Lord and be sure she sing it real pretty,' music has provided for us that aesthetic resource for expressing who we really are,' he said.

RELATED: 'Plastic Soul': David Bowie's Legacy and Impact on Black Artists

Present day, Kendrick Lamar's "We gon be Alright" and Janell Monae's "Hell you Talmbout," have become the latest submissions to the black movement soundtrack, being played in heavy rotation at most rallies and demonstrations, Imani reports.

Understanding the role of music historically and contemporarily, New Orleans native Asante Amin and Chen Lo created what they call a "live music and 3-screen multi-media retrospective of the Civil Rights Movement."

In its fourth installment, Soundtrack '63 took place to sold-out audiences in New Orleans over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.

The show bridges the gap between the eras of then and now, and weaves together classical forms of the black musical tradition like Jazz with new forms like hip hop.

"Not only does Soundtrack '63 visually chronicle the pre-civil rights era, civil rights movement and post-civil rights history of African descendants in America, it juxtaposes them so the connections are crystal clear," said Lo who serves as creative director for Soundtrack '63. "There is a constant tension between the sentiment, 'We've come so far,' and the question 'How far have we come?'"

Amin, Soundtrack '63 music director, adds Soundtrack '63 embodies 'Sankofa', the Ghanaian belief that it is up to us to look back, seek and fetch.

"Soundtrack '63 is necessary because it encourages us to remember we must pass on the information, wisdom and knowledge ascertained by our ancestors; we should not be 'reinventing the wheel' every generation, which is the rut I feel like we often fall into," he said. "Many of the solutions and answers we need are already in our canon of literature and art...over time we have developed a vocabulary to respond to oppression."

Whether they are the songs of yesterday or the songs of today, what these forms of expressions communicate is the spirit of Africanism.

"Music, whether in the black church or in the field, was a way to connect and stay connected," Santifer said. "Music has helped us develop language to talk about our oppression. That is the very thing this movement is trying to do, find the language to describe what we are feeling right now. I definitely think music and the organizing we are doing is providing ways for us to figure out that language collectively." - NBC

"'Soundtrack 63' Commemorates New Orleans' Exceptional Civil Rights History Through Music and Poetry"


A series of New Orleans and New York artists and performers have masterminded a new performance, running this weekend, that pays homage to the city's civil rights heroes.

"Soundtrack '63," originally presented in Brooklyn, is a music-meets-visuals multimedia performance that commemorates the legacy of civil rights and racial justice struggle. With the fourth installment in New Orleans, the performance examines NOLA-specific history and figures. Brooklyn-based duo Soul Science Lab team up with Junebug Productions, a New Orleans-based theatre company with roots in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and Black Arts Movement-affiliated Free Southern Theater, to create this iteration.

Featuring contributions from the likes of The Last Poets' Abiodun Oyewele and local poet Sunni Patterson, as well as commentary from Dr. Cornel West and Sonia Sanchez, "Soundtrack '63" combines a variety of music heritages and standards (jazz, soul, hip-hop and others) to repurpose and recreate the city's sonic atmosphere during the Civil Rights Movement. The performance promises to deliver a compelling retrospective of The Crescent City's central role in modern racial justice.

"Soundtrack '63" runs from January 16-18 at New Orleans' Contemporary Arts Center. Check out video below from earlier performances in Brooklyn. - Colorlines


Plan for Paradise (Album) 2016

  • Gimme Dat (Single)
Footprints (Album) 2014
The Visitor (Album) 2014



Overview of Soul Science Lab (SSL)

Innovative. Afro. Futuristic. Griots. Soul Science Lab (SSL) is a Brooklyn, NY based music and multimedia duo that translates stories into soul stirring sounds and dynamic visuals. SSL was formed by artist, educator and creative director, Chen Lo, and multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer, Asante’ Amin. With a focus on high quality, timeless music, SSL designs innovative arts education models and creates culturally responsive interactive experiences. In addition to international touring, SSL’s current projects include the orchestral, interactive documentary Soundtrack ‘63 and their newly released interactive album, “Plan for Paradise.”

 Co-founder Chen Lo is a seasoned artist, educator and creative director. This visionary mind has toured the globe, performing and leading master classes with a number of cultural arts institutions, including Jazz at Lincoln Center on the Rhythm Road, the August Wilson Center, 651 ARTS and others. Co-founder Asante' Amin is a gifted multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer. A 2011 recipient of the Young Lion Jazz award given by the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium and MetLife Meet the Composer award winner, Amin is a musical director ahead of his time.

SSL’s projects include: Chen Lo’s album Footprints, Amin’s album The Visitoran off Broadway Hip Hop Musical entitled “Sweet Billy and the Zooloos” which premiered at Summer Stage and Soundtrack ’63, a multi-media music production that explores the Civil Rights Movement through video, jazz, hip-hop, soul music and poetry. They are set to release their debut album Plan for Paradise October 28th, 2016.


Band Members