Klassik: The Music Man

About to embark on what could be the biggest tour of his career, Klassik is one to watch this spring.

Kellen Lewis Abston – the rapper, singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist who goes by the stage name Klassik – has long been a fixture of Milwaukee’s music scene. His star has been on the rise in recent months, and if it climbs much higher, he could soon be attracting national attention.

He never intended for his most recent album, QUIET, to take four years to complete. The delay was due in large part to what Klassik describes as “a lot of personal, kind of heavy stuff.” This included struggles with mental wellness and the trappings of the late-night life that affect so many musicians.

One positive byproduct of his late nights was a cache of recordings mainly consisting of free-form jam sessions and nine-minute, one-take songs. “I had the idea for the album probably as early as 2016,” he says. “But the process of getting that into an album took me getting through my stuff and then figuring out how to make sense of all of these freestyles.”

Both Klassik’s darker days and his journey through those tribulations are represented on QUIET, which was released on Nov. 22, 2019 – the 19th anniversary of his father’s murder. Getting to the other side of his personal struggles meant making major life changes. In 2017, he began sobering up and seeing a therapist and acupuncturist, practices he credits with leveling up his musical abilities.

In December, he walked away with Best Solo Artist and Critics’ Choice Album of the Year at the Radio Milwaukee Music Awards. And he says he is now more comfortable balancing rapping and singing. He’s brushing up on instruments like the guitar and returning to his entry-point into music, the saxophone. And while planning a regional tour in support of QUIET, he’s already working on songs for the next project. “There are countless ideas,” he says. 

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This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s February issue

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