CLICK HERE: Black Violin
An assortment of voices—different ages, genders, races—speak over a tense, clipped groove. Phrases overlap, offering definitions of a word while a beat snaps and propulsive strings bite and race up and down a scale. “A stereotype is an often unclear and untrue belief” says one; “a standardized mental picture” echoes another. Eventually, one voice settles in out front, explaining the responsibility that comes with a stereotype—“it gives me a goal, something to try to debunk.”
The opening and title track to Stereotypes, the major-label debut by Black Violin, serves as a mission statement for an ambitious and groundbreaking group. Wil Baptiste (viola) and Kev Marcus (violin) are a string duo from Florida with equal footing in the worlds of classical music and hip-hop. Though they have been playing together since high school, with Stereotypes, they take a great leap forward, from admirable rarities to significant innovators.
“Wil and Kev’s DNA is all about shattering and breaking stereotypes,” says producer Eli Wolf, who has worked with the likes of Norah Jones, Wynton Marsalis, and Elvis Costello. “We wanted the album to thread their sound through a kaleidoscope of styles, and bring out ways to break down categories and barriers into something multi-faceted and expansive.”
The members of Black Violin first met in Ft. Lauderdale, and played together in the orchestra at the Dillard High School of the Performing Arts. Classically trained by day, they faithfully put on their headphones and listened to the hottest rap records each night. They went to different colleges—Marcus attended Florida International University and Wil B went to Florida State—but then reconvened, moved into an apartment together, and started trying to produce other musicians.
They developed an act covering hip-hop songs on their violins, which became popular in local clubs. Two years after sending in a tape to Showtime at the Apollo, they were invited to appear on the show—which they won, and kept winning.
With Stereotypes, Black Violin set out to achieve something more than just selling some records or gaining notoriety as a curiosity. “We want to really be something that young musicians aspire to,” says Kev. “For us, the violin is the vehicle for a bigger message, which is not to be afraid to be different.”