Epic Battles of Words. In Rhyme.

“Racist bars and jokes are known for creating shock value and major crowd reactions, and to be on the receiving end of those lines will trigger emotions not only for a battler but for the people who those lines are referring to. I chose to embrace the stereotypes and I guess you can say, ‘take it back, take away the power.’ Those words hold and in, I turn flip it on my opponents.

I incorporate a lot of Native schemes, references, jokes and use it to my advantage. I always expect the them to come and me with the same material as they should since it’s a battle, and I’ve recently learned to sway myself from using  stereotypes against my opponents because, for me to do so would be defeating the point I’m trying to accomplish when I battle.”

Meet Phrase vs Pyrex

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“Stereotypes”| A Duo Raised On Hip-Hop And Classical Has It Both Ways

Kevin Sylvester says that when most people see a 6-foot-2-inch, 260-pound black man, they don’t expect him to also be a classically trained violinist. A recent exchange with a woman in an elevator, when he happened to have his instrument with him in its case, drove that point home.

“She’s like, ‘What do you play?’ ” he recalls. “I’m like, ‘I’m a violinist.’ And she was like, ‘Well, obviously you don’t play classical, so what kind of style do you play?’ ”

Sylvester says he explained that while he does have a degree in classical music, he plays all kinds of styles. “She didn’t mean it maliciously,” he says, “but I hope she gets to see us in concert and we can change her perception.”

Moments like this inspired Sylvester and his partner, violist Wilner Baptiste, to call their new album Stereotypes. It’s the latest release by their duo Black Violin, whose seeds were planted years ago when the two met as high school students in Florida.

Both men say that when they were kids, studying stringed instruments wasn’t exactly Plan A. Sylvester was nudged into music classes by his mother in fifth grade, and grew to like the violin despite initially dismissing it as uncool. Baptiste, meanwhile, originally wanted to learn saxophone — but when he signed up for summer band, he was put into a string class with a different teacher accidentally. Or so he thought.

“I didn’t find this out until 2012, that the reason why I got put in his class was because he and the band teacher had a bet,” Baptiste says. “They basically said to themselves, ‘Listen, let’s play golf, and whoever wins gets this kid in their class.’ So it wasn’t an accident — it was actually done on purpose.”

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Before they were introduced to the strings, Baptiste and Sylvester were kids who loved hip-hop. They met in their high-school orchestra class, where they began to study classical music and learned to love the great composers.

“It started for me with Bach, ’cause Bach is the equalizer, you know?” Sylvester says. “To me, Bach is the hardest thing you can play, because he exposes everything about you. He exposes your weaknesses and makes you work harder. I always think of Bach as, like, the closest composer to divinity.”

Baptiste and Sylvester say that while classical music and hip-hop may seem worlds apart, both are meant to bring people together….

Read the full story here | NPR Music