Wil B of Black Violin
on The New Black Renaissance
We sit down with Wil B of Black Violin to discuss what we see as a New Black Renaissance happening throughout the Diaspora and how this phenomenon is now translating into new business opportunities. Read, listen and watch as we discuss everything from Culture shaming to Cardi B.
How does it feel?
Stacey – Well, sold out last night, right?
Wil B – Man… it’s just an incredible feeling. For me, it’s something that’s really difficult to express but it’s really gratifying to see people come out and support you. Especially being from here. Often times, as artist, you don’t get a lot of support from the people in your home town so to see that was really incredible. So, it was a home coming and we had a lot of friends and family come out and I saw people I haven’t seen in years. So, it was a lot of fun. It was a great crowd and to be able to give back. Honestly, with the kids that performed at the end of the show… it’s something that we love doing. It’s something that we feel is necessary for the community to understand that the Arts really are important. For the crowd to be able to see it full circle with us performing with the kids, it’s very impactful. Obviously, it’s impactful for the kids and they’re going to be transformed from it but for the community, the one’s making the decisions and policy makers seeing us together on stage really makes an impact and hopefully that can translate into continued or increased funding for the arts.
Stacey -How does it feel to be back here in Ft. Lauderdale in the City where you grew up and have such a great response from the community?
How did the kids react?
Stacey - We were very impressed with that part of the show. As Parent’s my husband and I found it difficult to keep our sons interested in musicianship
Wil B – Obviously, they loved it and they think it’s the coolest. As a classical musician, you don’t get to play whatever you want. You’re told how to hold the instrument and what to play. Here is Mozart, he intended it to sound this way - There’s no room for individuality… not really. On the flip side, Hip-Hop is the complete opposite. Hip Hop is about expression, do you… So, a lot of these kids know both worlds but they’ve never thought about them coming together. Once they see that it can be done, they begin to think to themselves, ‘man, what else can I do?’. It’s not necessarily about music, it’s more about elevating your passion. We need this younger generation to think differently. Just because something has been done a certain way for a hundred years doesn’t mean it’s effective. Even when we speak with musicians on a higher level, it’s even crazy for them because they’re trained, so getting them to accept seeing their craft in a different way is difficult. For trained, classical musicians to play something you feel or something that’s not on a sheet of paper… that concept doesn’t exist. Much of what we’re doing is different but, I’m not playing a whole lot of crazy stuff because that’s not what’s going to capture people’s attention. It’s the idea of you playing anything on this violin that shows individualism is what stands out.
You’re set with the kids transitioned from classical to something next level. How did the kids react to this new style during rehearsals?
Taking the 1st step - Thinking outside the box
Stacey – I’m glad you mentioned that because our platform encourages people to think outside the box and be creators of opportunity, which is something you and Kev have done.
Wil B – I think a lot of it has to do (lol) with just ignorance to what was being presented to us. Whatever the criticism was, we knew. Even from the genesis of us picking up these instruments I would go into a bathroom and just play what I feel. I think, for us being patient and understanding how important it is to be yourself. Coming up, there was nothing like us. There was nothing to compare us. All we knew was classical music, Hip-Hop, and I knew that whenever I picked up this viola and you put on a beat and I start freestyling, man, that gave me life, that’s all I knew. So, for me, if you had something negative to say about it; I didn’t care because me being me made me feel a certain way. So, us being ourselves and doing what we love really connected with people. So, I think, as someone who’s looking to start anything new in life, I think the main thing to remember is be you, do you. There are going to be moments when you fall, there are going to be moments when you get knocked down but you’ll get back up so fast because this thing you do is natural, versus you literally creating something someone else is doing. Being someone else takes a lot more energy than just being true to yourself. At the end of the day, that’s what people gravitate to.
How did you and Kev have the confidence to say, ‘this will work and this is how we’re going to do it’ ?
Negative to Positive
Stacey – So much of what our kids and even us in the case of reality tv, are being presented with things that are said to be real but are actually just the opposite.
Wil B - As toxic as Cardi B may be and I don’t think she’s conducive to our young girls, I think there’s this rawness about her and I think, maybe in 10 years after she’s made all this money, she’ll realize you know, this place I was trying to reach, it’s not even worth it. Maybe I can start pealing back this onion to reveal who I really want to be you know, who I should be and then that can be something little girls can really aspire to. Maybe that’s the case, maybe that’s not the case but again it’s that realness that appeals to people. Regardless of what it is you be honest about it. Approach it in a way that’s real.
So, I’m glad you brought that up.
Hearts and Minds
Stacey – I’m sure the kids being on stage with you guys was an amazing experience. The Violin is a hard sale for kids in our community.
I think for us, that’s why we try to engage with our community. I’ll be real, I would have loved to see a few more colorful faces? But I didn’t plan it, that’s just real. The idea of Black Violin, when kids see us, we don’t even have to play a note. You see this Black guy that could be your dad or brother, depending on how old you are and you see this violin being played and I am who I am. You know what I’m saying? It is what it is – you see me play, you hear me speak, there’s an instant connection. Now, I don’t have to tell you that this is an option, you see it. Honestly, the fact that classical music and that instrument is not in our community is on purpose. Classical music, in general is like yea, we don’t need you guys, we’re good. You know what I’m say’n, it is what it is. It’s not good, it’s unfortunate but that’s just the reality of it. It’s just like Baseball. Baseball isn’t big in our community because they’d rather us bang our heads against each other. It’s about economics. I definitely want to be able to (as a matter of fact, my wife and I were talking about it) just try to figure out ways to connect with our community. At the end of the day, once a little black boy, eight years old sees me pick up this violin, not that he will ever continue with it but it will lead to something great. It starts the conversation in their mind and sparks imagination like, man, look at these brothers. Look at what they’re doing – wow! Look at this thing that I saw as unreachable. I see it all the time. I don’t have to say it, they feel it.
Even you chose the saxophone before violin, how do we get kids and parents in our community to consider the violin and classical music as an option?
Parents are the key
Stacey – We noticed, with our sons, being introduced to music early on had a profound effect on their personalities and how they see things.
That’s the biggest thing for me, for parents to see the value in this form of music so they can fight for it. Let them take that football out of the schools’ man, they’ll raise hell. Cause they know one of these boy’s they have at home could potentially be a meal ticket for them. It’s unfortunate but it is what it is. But, I understand why “they” don’t see any other way. Because nothing else was presented to them. The way that I ended up playing this instrument was God. I ain’t have nothing to do with it. Something triggered in my mind to go play the saxophone and they put me in the wrong class. Like… What? I tell that story and it don’t make any sense, that ain’t me doing it. But that exposure and that idea would not have happened if I didn’t want to play the sax. I wasn’t like… yo, it would be cool to play the violin. No! I never even seen the violin up close, ever, until I went up to the class. And it’s funny, that class at that school, it was at Sunrise Middle School – they cancelled that program the year after. So, It’s just exposure man. We’re not exposed to a lot of different things and I try to talk to people about it a lot.
We did a show in Cincinnati, and I love to do shows for a lot a different people but to get the love from people who look like my Auntie is extra special. To have them want to hug me and pray with me and tell me “you just don’t know what you’re doing” and I’m like, I don’t but I’m gonna keep on doing it and I definitely want to continue to feed our community cause I understand the necessity of it and just the image of it. I tell people all the time, a lot of people would say Obama didn’t do anything that image of a black family in that white house was enough? I’m cool with my niece and nephew seeing that image and subconsciously saying to themselves, OK, maybe I can do something else. Maybe I can strive for something else. Granted, he didn’t really put a whole lot of policies out there that affected us. That’s cool, I didn’t expect it. Man, you Black man. Look at what Trump just did in less than a year he’s straight up flipped everything. That’s the white society we live in. I didn’t expect much but that image of that Black family is powerful.
So, we encourage you to continue to fight the good fight in bringing your music to our community and not just to the kids but to the parents because the parents influence the kids.
The New Black Renaissance
Stacey – Wil B, that’s why what you guys are doing is so important. We need these images. We fill like there’s a new black renaissance happening in art.
Wil B – I think so, I really do and particularly South Florida. I want to focus on South Florida a lot more because I see places like North Carolina, the true South where there’s more comradery. Here, there’s a lot of different kind of black folks. I’m Haitian, born in the Bahamas but both my parents are Haitian and we’re not connected like that whereas someone that’s African American or Jamaican, I really want to help build that. Because we need to understand like, yo, I get pulled you get pulled over same stuff dog like, it ain’t no difference. But I do think that we’re spear heading this. Not that I’m holding the mantle or anything Ima just do what God tells me to do and wherever the chips fall is good. I think it’s brewing. I think there’s this new thing happening; I think there is. I just want it to continue and honestly, as bad as Trump is, I think he’s actually helping it come about.
Music, film even business and we see Black Violin as one the groups leading the charge. Are you seeing new black renaissance as you move about?
Stacey – You guys are smashing stereo types every time you step on stage.
Wil B – They respond very well, I mean we’ve done shows that sold out and the reason they sold out is because the idea is very intriguing. They have season tickets so they figure ‘Hmmm Black Violin, I’ll go check it out. Then, we get on stage and completely shatter whatever they thought it was going to be. There’s no way they thought it was going to be anything like wat they experienced. If you saw me, and I get this all the time when I’m at the airport, elevator, you see me, you would never ever think I played this instrument. It’s something that’s affective. You see a lot of white faces having a good time and they see me, they’re going to see someone that looks like me. The hope is they’re seeing something different from what the media wants them to see. It’s definitely something that’s affective. That’s one the huge things we get to do. We get to shatter people’s miss conceptions about the instrument and what black person is capable of and that’s really important. When you think about our society and the climate we live in. I have a two-year-old boy now and you just gotta be conscious of these things.
How are your audiences responding to what a violinist should look like?
Culture shaming - Knowledge of self
Stacey – We love what you guys are doing and we’re so proud of you.
Wil B – Yea, that would be great. Reach out to Caroline, she knows my schedule better than I do but I really want to set something up like documentary or something because I do think it’s important to tell our story. I’m of Haitian decent and I want to start and I really haven’t been doing it really want to be able to tell that side of the story. People tell me, that I can really have an impact but I’m not that guy that will run for office and I don’t do anything just to have a camera in my face. I want to do things because it’s on my heart to do it. I do think it’s important for young little Haitian boys and girls to see me. If Black people are “bottom feeders” than Haitians are below that in the eyes of society and that’s unfortunate. It’s something that I know all too well, being born in the Bahamas. I thought it would be different when I came here but it was more of the same. I understand this on a different level because it really affected me. Then I started reading and understanding the history behind everything and I started having empathy for people because of the history. It isn’t your fault. I get it but at the same time, I want to empower us to not only understand who we truly are, because no one sat me down and taught me my history. No one told me anything about who I am. I just knew that everybody hated me for whatever reason but understanding why, helps. It empowers us. That’s another interview that could last 10 hours.
I applaud you for it and we look forward to getting you and Kev on camera.
Stacey – last question. What’s next? What are the new projects for Black Violin?
Wil B – We’re working on a new album, not sure when it will drop but we’re chipping away at it. Hopefully, where going to drop a new record soon but that’s about it. It’s good work and it’s what I love to do.
Stacey – Thank you for taking the time to speak with Urban Pulse Direct
Wil B – Thank you for inviting us.
We appreciate it wish you all the best!