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Jazz-Infused Hip-Hop Gets 'Klassik' Treatment

tbz.foto, Tino Pinkston, and Xavier Ruffin

Milwaukee is not the center of the hip-hop universe, but one local artist is setting out to make a name for himself – and his jazz-steeped hip-hop music – here.

It wasn't until after Milwaukee hip-hop artist Klassik put out his first album last fall and read the reviews, that he found the best descriptor of his sound: "symphonic rap-and-soul."

"It...encompasses everything of what I'm trying to go for as far as sound, because I want it to be a wide range of sounds, so much so that it just becomes one sound, to be truly a classic sound," he says.

Klassik, who just wrapped up a long set of live shows, likes to incorporate soul and R&B into his music, and he uses a lot of strings and "heavy" music theory in his arrangements. A self-proclaimed "jazz kid," he started playing the saxophone at age 11 and began making his own music in eighth grade. Those early influences have found their way into his music.

"I feel like what I'm bringing that isn't really being brought is a certain light, a certain light-heartedness, even if I'm touching on darker subjects or just really serious, like human emotions," he says.

In his early years, Klassik says rap wasn't part of the equation. Instead, he says he was "raised with Tchaikovsky, MoTown, Prince and Michael Jackson." But soon, he fell in with a talented group of "hip-hop heads" in the beat scene and began writing his own raps - which at first he didn't think were very good.

Now, with an album under his belt, Klassik is pretty comfortable rapping, but he says he still uses one rule for writing: "Speak like yourself but make it rhyme."

Klassik performed the track “Forever, Whatever” off of his first album called “In the Making" in Lake Effect's studio.