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A Hip-Hop Rhapsody

In Music
Black Violin fueses hip-hop, classical—merging Biggie, Brahms

Black Violin fueses hip-hop, classical—merging Biggie, Brahms

When Black Violin’s Kev Marcus was mistakenly placed in an orchestra class during his freshman year of high school, he didn’t realize until years later that it was based on a bet between two music teachers.

“I didn’t find this out until 2012 when we had our own show on Broadway and our former orchestra teacher came out to see us perform,” Marcus, a violinist, explains with a laugh. “He told me that he had a bet going with the band teacher over a round of golf and whoever won would have me in their class. Obviously, he won.”

Marcus, whose given name is Kevin Sylvester, makes up one-half of the classical hip-hop fusion duo Black Violin. Along with violist Wil B (Wilner Baptiste), the two have created a distinctive and energizing sound that blends the rhythmic and soulful roots of hip-hop with many of the trappings of classical music. As part of the first leg of their Black Violin Unity Tour, the two will take the stage Friday and Saturday at Stanford’s Bing Auditorium. Together they aim to change perceptions and break stereotypes on what it means to be black in a space that’s historically been white.

While classical music didn’t play a role in the environments they grew up in, the duo hopes to introduce Bach and Debussy—alongside Biggie and Dr. Dre—to tell stories and inspire audiences to contemplate the narratives and dialogues behind both styles of music. “When you can tell a story through your music, you’ve gotten me, whether or not it’s my style,” Marcus says. “If I can honestly feel your story within your music, I’m listening.”

Since forming 13 years ago, part of Black Violin’s story has been its conscious effort to introduce its music to younger audiences: the duo have performed for over 100,000 students in North America and Europe in the past year alone. When Marcus noticed awe-inspiring reactions from kids, he realized Black Violin possessed a uniqueness that was “almost like a superpower” and decided to act on it.

“We felt obligated to reach out to the community and schools to empower kids with what we have, something that comes very naturally and easy to us,” Marcus explained. “When we started seeing we had that kind of power, we said that whenever we have the opportunity to engage and talk to kids we have to take that chance.”

Black Violin
Jan 27-28
7:30pm, $15-$30
Bing Concert Hall, Stanford

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