Hip-hop classical duo to visit Iowa City, bringing hopeful musical message

Black Violin’s upcoming performance in Iowa City is set to be a lively, high-energy ride that brings a fresh flavor of music, mingled with a sweet sense of hope.


Kyler Johnson, Arts Reporter

Set to perform at the Englert at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 22, hip-hop classical duo Black Violin will most definitely give your winding-down weekend an unexpected pick-me-up for the start of the new week. Comprising violinist Kev Marcus and violist Wil Baptiste, the duo blend two very contrasting styles of music into one smooth sounding symphony.

Originality is often thought to be dying. For the sake of profit, there has been plenty of imitation of style, music, and writing throughout the ages. The Black Violin, however, plans to stamp its mark of hope on the community, proving originality can be full and alive in the music world.

“We’ve always freestyled with the beat,” Baptiste.said.

The two, having known each other since high school in 1996, have gone through many years of collaboration and experimentation. It was not until their post-college experience, however, when their musical lives began to converge on a more serious level.

The journey has led the two through three albums and working with a variety of artists along the way. The artists’ focus and concentration on their music have not wavered throughout the process.

“The concept was always hope,” Baptiste said. “It makes people dream, particularly kids.”

This kind of permittance to dream through their concerts is something the duo is grateful to bring to all sorts of communities, including Iowa City. Baptiste said the concerts aren’t what people traditionally visualize when they think classical music, which makes them so fun.

“You see violins, and you think it’s going to be nice,” Baptiste said. “But people are dancing, people with canes, young folks; it’s really a high-energy show.”

Baptiste said high energy translates to his own feelings performing in front of so many different crowds.

“It’s incredibly humbling,” he said. “I’m really moved that music can bring people together in that way.”

Breaking that mold of style yet clinging to a universal truth, the group is bound to attract a wide variety for the shows.

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“There are some groups where you play the song with the lyrics and it’s the same. Ours isn’t that,” Baptiste said. “Our style is very different, very unique — it plays to people’s narrative.”

The two pride themselves on their individuality and that they are not trying to be like anybody else, as well as their ability to relate to other people’s stories through their craft. These factors have made them stand out and led them to success, and it does not seem that their artistic process will change soon.

“No matter how small you think you are. No matter what industry you are in. There’s opportunities to lose yourself. It’s never rewarding — never,” Baptisite said. “We stay true to ourselves, and sometimes that means taking the stairs.” Using words to highlight the next album’s title Taking the Stairs.

“If you don’t like it, it’s cool,” Baptiste said, emphasizing he is going to keep performing no matter who shows up. “I’ve gotta be me no matter what.”