New & Next: Meet Black Violin, the Hip-Hop Classical Musical Duo Breaking Stereotypes

Black Violin, a duo composed of classically trained string musicians, Kevin Sylvester and Wilner Baptiste, aims to break stereotypes about classical music.

Imagine a strong hip-hop beat overlapping a rich, classical melody and transforming into a gritty, classical ensemble. That is the essence of the classical duo Black Violin.

Black Violin, a duo composed of classically trained string musicians, Kevin Sylvester (violin) and Wilner Baptiste (viola), also known as Kev Marcus and Wil B, aim to break ordinary thinking. With their latest album Stereotypes, the duo elicits brilliant music with a poignant message for the world.

"We wanted something that would make you bust through the wall, something to really make you get up and do something and think differently about things," Marcus told ESSENCE. "We decided to message the whole album on breaking stereotypes. We’re big and dark. We travel the world…get on the plane and their like, ‘Oh, so what you got in there? A saxophone?' and you say 'a violin' and 'oh really? A violin?'…It’s so like, in our face, we felt like we can tell that story in a really cool way and use this album to frame this."

The Floridian natives, who've performed for President Barack Obama at the 57th Presidential Inaugural Ball, have also collaborated with some of the most recognized names in the industry, including The Roots, Pharoahe Monch, Melanie Fiona and even played for beat mastermind, Timbaland. The latter happened about 13 years ago, when Marcus and B were desperate to get their feet in the door.

"I remember we were trying to play at Timbaland’s [30th] birthday party. It was like 2002. We go to the club early and tried to talk to the promoter. They’re not giving us no time of day, so my manager opens his trunk and plays something off the radio. It was J-Kwon’s Tipsy… and we’re playing on top of that beat and people just stop. And the promoter of the club was like ‘Yo that’s crazy, you wanna play at the club tonight for free?' We go in that night and we play a bunch of Timbaland songs and people’s reactions to it were crazy! They didn’t even know what to do with that.”

The duo, who describe their sound as "hard hitting beats with lush strings," continue to make crowds go wild, only this time they say that they aim to do it while "tackling racial strife in America." Their new video, “Stereotypes,” hits the audience with strong visuals of protests, as well as instrumental and dance performance.

"Just because the violin is only played one way doesn’t mean that’s the only way it could be played. Don’t aim for the stereotypes. Only aim to break them,” Marcus said. “We get off the stage and it’s just like, 'I didn’t even know the violin could do the things you were doing with it and it’s a black dude playing this thing.' It’s just a perception changer and it’s a big deal for us."

Stereotypes drops September 18th and is now available for pre order on iTunes.

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