On November 1st, the classical-meets-hip-hop duo Black Violin released their album Take The Stairs, debuting in the top ten across multiple genre charts: No. 1 in Current Classical, No. 1 in Classical Crossover, No. 7 in Heatseekers, and No. 9 in Current R&B/Hip-Hop.
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For 16 years, Black Violin members Kev Marcus and Wil Baptiste have been merging string arrangements with modern beats and vocals. The two met in orchestra class at Dillard High School in Ft. Lauderdale, becoming classically trained on the violin and viola through their high school and college careers. Post-college, they reconvened to produce beats for South Florida rappers, and began building an audience in local clubs. They later went on to win Showtime at the Apollo in 2005, and eventually sold out headline performances at venues across the country, including a sold out two-night headline run at The Kennedy Center in 2018. Their unique brand of merging the genre they were listening to (hip hop) with the world they were studying (classical) was celebrated with collaborations with Alicia Keys, Wu Tang Clan, 2 Chainz and others. NPR took note and declared “their music will keep classical music alive for the next generation.” UPROXX also featured Black Violin in a mini-documentary as part of their “Uncharted” series, watch the video HERE.
The duo plays over 200 shows a year (many of these are performances for young low-income students in urban communities – in the last year alone, the group played for over 100,000 students) with the goal of challenging stereotypes and preconceived notions of what a “classical musician” looks and sounds like. “The stereotypes are always there, embedded so deep in our culture,” says Wil. “Just by nature of our existence we challenge those ideas. It’s a unique thing that brings people together who aren’t usually in the same room, and in the current climate, it’s good to bring people together.”
Recently, the group launched the Black Violin Foundation Inc., a non profit organization dedicated to empowering youth by providing access to quality music programs in their community. BVF believes that music and access to music programs should not be determined by race, gender, or socio-economic status. Black Violin Foundation’s inaugural program the Musical Innovation Grant for Continuing Education will provide scholarships to young music students to attend a program of their liking that fosters musical creativity and innovation. Programs can range from private lessons, to summer music camps, to college courses. Scholarships will be awarded bi-annually to up to 20 applicants per scholarship cycle. More info at: http://www.blackviolinfoundation.org