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Klassik and the Power of Positive Thinking

Sep. 19, 2012
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Milwaukee rapper/producer Klassik recorded his debut full length, In the Making, over several trying years marked by self-doubt, depression, relationship struggles and a crushing quarter-life crisis. You’d never guess from hearing the album, though. Out Sept. 25, In the Making is a bright, almost effervescent, hip-hop record, indebted to the festive early output from fellow Midwesterners Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco—think Graduation and Food and Liquor, not Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Lasers—and peppered with loving callbacks to the celebratory golden-age hip-hop of Naughty by Nature and Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth.

“I was just trying to channel some positive thinking while I was dealing with my personal struggles and trying to support myself while trying to make it in music,” Klassik explains. “For me, music is the best release for when I’m trying to get through darker times. My whole thing is I don’t want to depress people. I don’t want people listening to my music to feel the way I felt when I was making it. I try to use negative energy to create beautiful things.”

Klassik’s arrangements accentuate the album’s euphoric feel. His production is thoroughly modern, dressed with layers of humming synthesizers, but a classic jazz mentality runs beneath those coats of electro-soul. Klassik studied piano and saxophone for the better part of 10 years, some of them under venerable Milwaukee jazzman Berkeley Fudge, and that melodic sensibility informs his rich, ever-shifting beats.

“Growing up, my favorite artists weren’t Eminem or Jay-Z or Nas, but guys like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Chick Corea and Miles Davis,” Klassik says. “I wanted to become a sax player, so that mentality is still so instilled in my brain. Everything I write is based in that whole jazz theory about certain chord progressions evoking certain moods. It’s actually funny the album feels so positive, because there are so many minor keys and chord progressions on it that should evoke a darker or more somber tone, even though it still comes across as upbeat.”

Klassik plans to indulge his jazz leanings at his album release show Friday, Oct. 5, at G-Daddy’s BBC. “I’ll be featuring the Kevin Hayden Trio as my opener and my backing band, and will also be performing with a couple of violinists and a DJ,” he says. “It should be interesting, because I made this album with the intention of playing it live. I write all my songs with horns, strings, pianos and bass in mind, so for a show like this, I just work backward. It’s really natural, taking that step back. I essentially become the musical director for the night, and I love that. In another life, I think I would have loved to have been a conductor.”


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