Picture a classical violinist. Imagine their clothing, their hairstyle, how they speak, even their build. Now imagine that person as a hip-hop artist. What just changed?
Musicians Kevin Sylvester and Wilner Baptiste are constantly confronted with the discrepancies between people's expectations of those two caricatures. The two former high school friends form the duo Black Violin, which blends classical violin with elements of hip-hop in a way that makes the two genres seem a lot more similar than many people imagine.
Both musicians told NPR they frequently get confused reactions when telling people they're violinists. Sylvester recalled one woman asking, "Well, obviously you don't play classical, so what kind of style do you play?"
Their work goes beyond changing people's perceptions of black men, though. Their music revolutionizes both genres...
Sylvester said both hip-hop and classical music represent popular, socially-experienced music of their time. "You know, hip-hop and classical, in a lot of ways, are both party music for different eras," he said. Sylvester hopes his work can help fans of both hip-hop and classical music appreciate what they may have been missing in genres they haven't explored.
Their latest music video "Stereotypes" switches between shots of Black Lives Matters protests, the two artists making violins do things we didn't realize violins could do, and crowds filled with people breaking stereotypes of their gender and ethnicity. There's a black female astronaut, a female chemists, a black firefighter, a Sikh photographer, and plenty of other people in roles you don't usually see in mainstream media.
The song itself is instrumental, with voiceovers reading the definitions of the word stereotype as the contrasting images are displayed. Black Violin's genuine talent and the song's freshness keep the video from straying into cliché territory, making "Stereotypes" genuinely enjoyable.