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Future so bright: Upbeat Afro-future band funks up BAM

Soul survivors: Chen Lo, left, and Asante Amin, right, make up Soul Science Lab, a band that combines funk, rhythm and blues, and rap for an afro-futuristic sound. They will perform at BAMCafe on Jan. 13–14.
Brooklyn Paper
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Call them funk Soul brothers.

A funkadelic hip-hop duo plans to transport audiences to a futuristic utopia with a pair of free concerts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this weekend. The members of Brooklyn band Soul Science Lab, which will play at BAMcafe on Jan. 13 and 14, call their optimistic blend of musical styles “Afro-futurism” — a relatively new term for ideas with a history among black artists and authors.

“I’m a student of Earth, Wind, and Fire, P-Funk, and Octavia Butler — all of these people were already talking about space travel, being from another planet, and advanced technologies and civilizati­ons,” said emcee and instrumentalist Asante Amin, who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “We approach the world with this perspective that our people have always been creating, whether it’s the past, present, or future — we’ve been primed to create things that stand in test of time.”

Amin and Chen Lo, originally from New Orleans and Pittsburgh, respectively, formed Soul Science Lab after meeting in Brooklyn in 2012. During the two-night performance, which is part of the BAMCafe Live weekly music series, the duo will play tunes from their debut album “Plan for Paradise,” released last September, while backed up by a ten-piece brass ensemble.

The band’s show does not just look to the future — it will also take listeners through the evolution of black music forms, said Amin.

“It’s going to be a gumbo of the black music experience,” he said. “We are the children of hip-hop and the music that birthed it. We’re going to take you to the Bronx for serious hip-hop and lyricism, then New Orleans for a second line, and we might even take you to church.”

The inspirational message of Afro-futurism is vital for young people, who can be stressed out by the demands of social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, said Chen Lo. The hopeful music provides a mental space in which a younger generation can explore solutions, and not just focus on problems, he said.

“It’s a common root we use in our platform to form better cultural understanding, better unification of community, political voices — all of those things are connected,” said Chen Lo. “We need to be active, not just reactive, and formulating a plan — a plan for paradise.”

Despite the political message in songs such as “Africa’s the Future” and “I Can’t Breathe,” about the death of Eric Garner, the band makes sure to keep the music entertaining.

“It’s absolutely critical that music is good and fresh,” said Lo. “We speak to pop culture sensibilities while showing people another door — the music’s got swing and entertainment and will teach you as you get down.”

Soul Science Lab at BAMcafe [30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100, www.bam.org/bamcafelive]. Jan. 13–14 at 9 pm. Free.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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