Levi.Sct is the classically trained pianist from Germany who's been making waves across the internet with his unique blend of classical music and hip-hop.
The 21-year-old piano prodigy, who's currently studying at Hamburg’s prestigious Hochschule für Musik und Theater, layers his grand piano improvisations atop slick, undulating trap beats, seamlessly binding the two contrasting genres.
"I’ve been playing since the age of seven – now I'm 21," he says. "I had a very, very strict teacher who taught me all the main classical pieces by artists like Mozart, Chopin and Beethoven. But after I started playing in competitions a few years later, I realised that I didn’t just want to do classical music and wanted to create a fusion between the genres I listen to."
With more than 90,000 followers on Instagram alone, Levi.Sct’s rule-breaking approach is one that’s resonating with younger generations that haven’t felt represented by the historic style of music. Here, he breaks down how his love of classical music has informed his modern experiments with hip-hop, and vice versa.
Classical music doesn’t always have to be stiff – it can be a jump-off point for writing pop music, too
Many people think that classical music is boring. They don't have the patience to listen to it in full length because it's all the famous Mozart stuff. It's a total cliche, like music you hear in a TV advert. People think, ‘Oh, that's music for the upper class.’ I understand why people feel that way, because for a long time, classical music was only available to high society. I chose to mix classical and hip-hop the way I do because I thought they were two very different worlds, and I want to show people – especially younger people – that classical musicians don't have to be that stiff. This music can also be cool.
Hip-hop has been inspiring modern classical piano composers
In my opinion, not enough classical musicians listen to hip-hop so they don't get inspired by it -- and I think they should. Artists like Chloe Flower, however, are inspired by more modern forms of music. She uses pieces by Bach to make pop music and hip-hop, which to me is true innovation.
Classical music and hip-hop are more interconnected than you think
If you look at some pieces by Bach, you can see some chord progressions, which you often find in many trap, hip-hop and even pop songs. It’s all about sampling. Bach's music is a very long line and hip-hop is about just cutting one fragment and having it repeated over and over again. It's like a loop; just one little part in very big musical lines.
Many producers nowadays even listen to classical pieces to get inspiration for their beats. They copy the chord progressions or melodies, maybe change it a little bit and then make their own music out of it – that process is very similar to classical writing.
Classical music theory and training can create the perfect environment for hip-hop experiments to thrive
There are many things you can describe using music theory in all genres, but I think the biggest difference between classical and hip-hop is that it has a very strict rhythm. When it's 120BPM, it’s 120BPM. With classical music, you hear the rhythm in your head without the help of a metronome. Sometimes you play a little slower and sometimes you play a little faster. The great thing is that I can use the many tools I’ve gathered through my classical training for my hip-hop tracks – especially technique and agility. Classical music has also taught me strong improvisation skills which I find is my strongest ability.
Desiigner’s hit single Panda bridges the gap between classical music and rap.
There’s this very famous song called Panda by Desiigner that was inspired by a Bach piece. The song follows similar movements to classical songs, if you listen closely you can notice the first movement, second movement and so on. This song is obviously a copy of past music and it just works. It’s all the more interesting because of it!
He cites Russian composer Rachmaninoff, classical pianist George Gershwin and groundbreaking rapper Eminem as true innovators within their sphere
My favourite composer of all time is Sergei Rachmaninoff. His music describes life; I feel like everyone who listens to his music can understand his story even if they don’t necessarily understand classical music. His work is very emotional. Rhapsody In Blue by Gershwin is the perfect mix of classical and jazz. My favourite hip-hop – or shall we say pop – song is The Real Slim Shady by Eminem. Why? Because it also has those classical elements, like the inclusion of the harpsichord, which makes it sound like the song samples Bach.
The classical music bubble is often an exclusive place – but young generations are dreaming up new futures for the genre.
I hope the future of classical music sees artists and fans becoming more open-minded, aware and experimental. How is classical music, the genre, going to change? I don't know, but I hope that the younger generation gives it a chance and just tries to listen to it and understand it. The classical scene is still music for the upper class and they're often close-minded, never getting the chance to do experimental music. They think Beethoven wrote it like this, so it should be played like this. If you change it, it's sacrilegious. But I think art is freedom and art should be for everyone. Classical music should be limitless.