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Black Violin, Classical Hip Hop Duo, Continue to Champion the Arts

By Philip Trapp on May 19, 2016 11:00 AM EDT

Black Violin are violist Wilner Baptiste and violinist Kevin Sylvester, operating respectively under the stage names of Wil B and Kev Marcus. The duo fuse classical music performance with hip hop beats to create the distinctive sound they've used to advocate the arts worldwide for the past decade. 

Formed in 2004, the pair initially met at Florida's Dillard High School of Performing Arts. Taking up string instruments at the behest of their parents, the two rap music fans grew to appreciate the classical music genre. Encouraged by a devoted music teacher, they each received full music scholarships to college.

Developing their act with chamber music covers of popular hip hop songs, the group sent in an audition tape to Showtime at the Apollo. After a string of consistent wins at the theater, they eventually received 2005's "Legend" title from the revered institution. Reflecting on the triumph now, Sylvester recalls the vitalizing victory:

"After we won the Apollo, which is the hardest audience on the planet, we knew there was something there," Kev said. "The hard thing was to package it so that people would give us a chance, because we're doing something that nobody had ever seen. Every time we step on stage, we had to prove it over and over."

In a recent interview with NPR Music, Sylvester spoke of his formative classical music influences, highlighting his admiration for legendary composer Bach:

"It started for me with Bach, 'cause Bach is the equalizer, you know?" Sylvester says. "To me, Bach is the hardest thing you can play, because he exposes everything about you. He exposes your weaknesses and makes you work harder. I always think of Bach as, like, the closest composer to divinity."

Now over ten years and three albums into their career, Black Violin show no sign of slowing down. Last Year, Universal Music released their album Stereotypes, capitalizing on the attention afforded the group from performances with stars like Alicia Keys and an appearance on PBS children's program Angelina Ballerina.

Black Violin continues to tour the world, bringing their invigorating display to audiences far and wide. The group will perform in Miami on July 8 at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, presented by Culture Shock Miami.

Below, listen to the captivating title track from the group's latest album, Stereotypes.

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TagsBlack Violin, Johann Sebastian Bach, Apollo Theater