Classical, hip-hop mashup finds fans
Black Violin comes to The Embassy Theatre
Photo by Mark Clennon
October 17, 2019
During the day, Kevin Sylvester and Wilner Baptiste were classically trained violin players.
At night, they were aspiring hip-hop producers.
Somehow, they managed to marry the two genres and launch a music career unlike any other.
Sylvester, known on stage as Kev Marcus, and Baptiste, who goes by Wil B, met in orchestra during high school and attended different colleges, each on a full music scholarship. They reunited after graduating and began to carve out their own path in the music industry. That’s when Black Violin was born.
“We were trying to be the next Pharrell or the next Timbaland,” Kev recalled in an interview with Whatzup. “We’d be making these beats and come out and play violin and people were like, ‘Gosh, what is that? I’ve never seen that before.’ So we thought, ‘How can we do this and make money? How can we take these two worlds that we seem to combine effortlessly and do it in a way that people are into it?’”
Kev said for them, the easy part was making the music. What proved to be more difficult was getting people to accept and understand their art.
They worked tirelessly, traveling and performing non-stop and releasing two independent, self-financed albums before putting out an acclaimed third album in 2016 called Stereotypes.
They’re currently in the middle of a nationwide tour that includes a stop at Fort Wayne’s Embassy Theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available now and range from $22.50 to $72.50.
Kev said audience members can expect a high-energy show that evokes emotion.
“It’s an unforgettable experience, kind of a mash up of classical, pop, rock, hip hop, and everything in between,” he said. “It’s supposed to be not just entertaining but educating and inspiring. There are moments where it’s loud and you’re dancing and others where it’s peaceful and inspiring.”
The tour has been a run-up to the Nov. 1 release of their widely anticipated fourth album, Taking the Stairs.
“The title kind of describes what our career has been,” Kev said. “We’ve been doing this for 16 years and every year is better than the previous, but there haven’t been any elevator shots to the top, so to speak. We’ve been taking the stairs. Now that we look back on it, we know we’re better because of it. The journey was really interesting. I don’t know if we appreciated the journey so much, especially at the beginning.
“We want the album to feel hopeful but not preachy,” he continued. “We want it to be a call to action. We want people to realize that regardless of how dire things are or where you are in relation to where you want to be, there’s always hope. You have to dream. It’s about empowering people to be more than they ever thought they could be.”
Enjoying both Stage and Studio
Over the years, Black Violin has built a diverse and devoted following, and the process has been a labor of love. Kev said he’s always been drawn to live performances but also enjoys the time they’ve spent writing music and recording it.
“I love the 90 minutes that I’m on stage,” Kev said. “I really, really love that. There’s nothing else like that. It’s a high that you can’t replicate. In the studio, though, there’s something about literally taking thin air and making it into something that people can enjoy.”
With songs like “Dream” and “Impossible Is Possible” on the new album, Kev said their underlying message is one of hope and their mission is to move people.
“Everything we do is about trying to leave something more,” he said. “We don’t want you to be like, ‘I danced so much when I listened to it.’ We want you to be like, ‘I danced so much, but it also made me think.’ We have a platform. Why shouldn’t we use it in that way? To me it’s doing a disservice if you don’t.
“If you have millions of people looking at you, why not use that as an opportunity to say something to them?”