Black Violin

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Black Violin
Black Violin Live in Dubai 07'.JPG
Black Violin Live in Dubai in 2007
Background information
OriginFlorida, United States
GenresJazz, Hip hop, Funk, Classical, Modern classical, Fusion
Years active2004 – present
LabelsDknex Music
Di Versatile Inc,
Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Classics
Associated actsFort Minor
Fat Joe
Wu-Tang Clan
MembersWil B
Kev Marcus
Nat Stokes

Black Violin is an American hip hop duo from Florida comprising two classically trained string instrumentalists, Kevin Sylvester and Wilner Baptiste, who go by the stage names Kev Marcus and Wil B.

Kev Marcus plays the violin and Wil B. plays the viola. The two met in high school, went to different colleges, then later reconvened to create the musical group Black Violin. They play a variety of music (relying heavily upon classical music), but are often categorised as hip hop because of the changes to the rhythm and beats. This mingling of hip hop and classical sensibilities is what is generally thought to give them their distinctive style.[1]

The duo current performs with DJ SPS and drummer Nat Stokes.[2]

Early years[edit]

Despite their successful collaborations, Baptiste and Sylvester had disparate upbringings. As children, they were introduced to their instruments against their choice. Both members attended Dillard High School of Performing Arts, where they met and had the same music teacher who spurred them to attend college on full music scholarships.[1]

Wil B[edit]

Wil B is the stage name of Wilner Baptiste. Baptiste intended to study the saxophone instead of the viola, but by mistake was put into classes for the latter. Though initially reluctant, Baptiste chose to adapt to changes and accept the fate he was given. According to a 2012 interview, Baptiste stated: "I stuck with the viola and it opened a lot of doors for me." His goal as a performer is for people to attend the concerts, then return home "to be better people." [3]

Kev Marcus[edit]

Kev Marcus is the stage name of Kevin Sylvester. Of his early years, Sylvester stated in a 2012 interview: "I didn't want to be the violinist in my neighborhood." According to Sylvester, in the fifth grade: "I got into a little trouble...and my mom said she needed me to get into something, so she took me to Saturday morning violin class." He stated that his goal for his audience was to think about "...what they would do differently in their lives. We want to make sure they are not just playing the violin or playing other instruments, but we also want to make sure they are thinking about what they can do differently in their lives. So whether they want to be scientists or lawyers or hockey stars or anything — whatever they want to do — just make sure they go about doing it different than anybody else."[3]

Adult years[edit]

After high school, Sylvester attended Florida International University and Baptiste enrolled at Florida State University. At FIU, Sylvester met Sam G., who would go on to become the duo's manager. Alongside Sam G., the duo went on to co-found the production company DKNEX, which stands for Di-Versatile Music. The group name "Black Violin" is derived from the influence of a famous jazz violinist, Stuff Smith. Six months before Smith's death, he recorded a solo album titled Black Violin. Heavily inspired by the work, the duo decided to name their group after Smith's album.

According to Baptiste, "We wanted to be the next Neptunes; the next Timbaland...but we noticed how, whenever we performed with our artists, the audience was really drawn to us." [4] Of the duo's artistic philosophy on its self-titled album, Sylvester said:

"Our mantra has always been to engage the audience to look at things from a different perspective...At first, we leaned on the fact that we were different —more than on our technique. We wanted you to be confused. This time, we tried to keep our core message, but with more gravitas: more seriousness. Not just be crazy and different, but really step it up and be badass violinists."[5]

Black Violin clinched the Showtime at the Apollo 2005 Legend title, of which Sylvester said:

"After we won the Apollo, which is the hardest audience on the planet, we knew there was something there...The hard thing was to package it so that people would give us a chance, because we were doing something that nobody had ever seen. Every time we step on stage, we had to prove it over and over."[6]

Black Violin's popularity has risen with their performance accompanying Alicia Keys at the 2004 Billboard Awards, and by performing on the same bill with some of the industry's biggest artists, such as Wu-Tang Clan, and Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park.[2] The two men are also avid producers and writers, having worked with Kanye West, Tom Petty, Lupe Fiasco, Aerosmith, among others.[7] Most recently, they made a star appearance on "Angelina Ballerina," on the Public Broadcasting (PBS) network.[8]

Furthering their notoriety, Black Violin was invited to play at the Kids Inaugural Concert, one of the inaugural balls for United States President Barack Obama, in 2013. The concert was a special tribute to military families and was attended by First Lady Michelle Obama, her daughters Malia Obama and Sasha Obama, and Second Lady Jill Biden.[9]



  • BV Mixtape Series: Unleashed II - (2009)
  • BV Mixtape Series: Unleashed - (2006)


  1. ^ a b "Melding classical and hip hop: Black Violin brings their unique sound to the Kate". The Day. 2018-01-22. Retrieved 2018-01-22.
  2. ^ a b Podplesky, Azaria (2017-04-02). "Review: Black Violin's mash up of classical and hip-hop entertaining for all ages". The Spokesman Review. Retrieved 2018-01-22.
  3. ^ a b Kev Marcus; Will B. "Kev Marcus & Wil B on Black Violin" (Interview). The New Victory Theater.
  4. ^ Stereotypes Press Release, Universal Music Classics
  5. ^ Stereotypes Press Release, Universal Music Classics
  6. ^ Stereotypes Press Release, Universal Music Classics
  7. ^ Stereotypes Press Release, Universal Music Classics
  8. ^ Alleman, Annie (2017-02-27). "Classical meets hip-hop through Black Violin". Naperville Sun. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2018-01-22.
  9. ^ "Military families honored at Kids' Inaugural concert". USA TODAY. 2013-01-19. Retrieved 2018-01-22.