You know, it’s a beautiful thing as a blogger, to have literally thousands and thousands of great artists on the lists to write about!! Today, I’d like to switch gears a little bit. Violins and hip hop? How many of my readers knew such a genre called “classical hip hop” even existed? I’d like to bring to your attention, a genre within hip hop that appears to be almost ignored. Partly because I feel it’s not mainstream enough, which is a shame ’cause it would certainly add a completely new layer of diversity in regards to hip hop.
A Phenomenal Group, Black Violin
I’d like to introduce my readers to a phenomenal group, Black Violin! I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long while now. They are an extremely talented duo, that happens to be both African American, and both are classically trained violinists. Wilner Baptiste & Kevin Sylvester are from Florida, and I believe they started their group somewhere around 2003. Now, certainly Black Violin was not the first to use classical hip hip in their music. However, they are the first hip hop group I’ve ever seen that can actually not only play the violin, but are phenomenal lyricists, and creatively incorporated those skills in to their string sounds, giving us a whole new level to hip hop.
Their cultural background speaks loudly in their work! There’s so much clean quality in their music, oppose to that same ol’ repetitive gangster shit that are burned in to the minds of the young on a daily basis. Their first CD is the one I fell in love with. However, it’s extremely hard to get. I suspect something went down between them and their label. I did manage to discover it on SoundCloud. There are a couple of nice remixes of some old classics on that album. One of the pieces I really liked from that first album is “Jammin’.” Sort of reminds me of the rapper Juvenile a little bit. You’ll know what I mean when you hear it. Also, check out “Dirty Orchestra,” which is also on the first album.
Now, there are a number of songs I do like that are available for streaming. One piece that I think is real hot is called “A-Flat,” from their 2012 album called “Classically Trained.” It’s a damn shame this didn’t even register on the billboard. Another one that I think is hot is a piece called “Stereotypes,” from their 2015 album “Stereotypes.” This piece only registered at #146 on the billboard. Most young people are not ready for this kind of music; or perhaps their just not looking for it. Despite not hitting #1 on the charts, they’ve worked with some powerful people in the music business, which includes Fat Joe & the Wu-Tang Clan. Check out their Black Violin’s website.
I think it would be extremely rare that anybody under 30 years of age would know anything about this Quartet. “Take Five,” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, was (and still is) my top favorite jazz piece. The piece was originally recorded with instrumentals in 1959; but Dave also written lyrics to his masterpiece, and it was rerecorded in 1961 with Carmen Mcrae on vocal. However, I much prefer the versions with out the vocals. It is my understanding that a couple of years after its first release, “Take Five” became the biggest selling jazz hit single ever made at the time. It was also used in many movie soundtracks.
If you love “Take Five” like I do, there are a few re-interpretations that I think are worthy of your ear! Starting with the late legendary Tito Puente’s version of “Take Five.” Once known as “The King Of Latin Music,” Tito had the gift of literally turning any kind of music into something everybody wants to dance to. Next is a reggae version of “Take Five,” by a group called the “New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble.” I really love this version, I don’t hear reggae musicians make good classic instrumentals anymore. Next is Chet Atkins. Chet has done a wonderful guitar version of “Take Five.” Very smooth and relaxing. Lastly, a group that calls themselves “The String Cheese Incident,” has performed a really nice version of “Take Five.” Those guys know how to pick a guitar let me tell you! So, I recommend that you take a listen. I don’t think you’d be disappointing.