Christylez Bacon, 29, is a Washington beatboxer, guitar player and Grammy-nominated purveyor of progressive hip-hop. He’s the founder of the Washington Sound Museum, a regular concert series at the Atlas Performing Arts Center that mixes hip-hop with traditional music from around the world.
What do you think about mainstream hip-hop and rap today?
When I listen to the artists on the radio right now, it’s very monotonous. Everything sounds the same. It’s like you got handed a box of crayons and you opened it up, and every color was gray.
You incorporate so many different styles of music. Is there any style of music that you don’t really like?
Whoo, I don’t think I have a style of music that I don’t like. You know people always say country. But I can never say country because there’s stuff in there that’s so close to gospel. I love storytelling. If you want to learn how to write some good stories, some good songs, why not bring yourself to listen to country? There’s some hip stuff in there.
If you could choose three people, dead or alive, to sit in a room and make music with, who would they be?
I really like Esperanza Spalding’s bass playing, her ideas. It’d be really nice to beatbox with Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson could beatbox like a mug! And Gilberto Gil, from Brazil. Man, that dude. I look up to him not just as a musician but for what he stands for. He was exiled and then later came back to be a minister of culture for Brazil. I would love to be a minister of culture for D.C.
What’s your favorite Washington thing to do that doesn’t involve music?
I like to ride bikes around the city late at night. To bike downtown on Constitution or Pennsylvania during the weeknight. The streets are bare. It’s like “Home Alone.” Everyone left town, and you’re there biking down the middle of the street. And you see the Monument on this side, lit up, and the Capitol on the other side lit up. Late-night bike rides — I love that stuff.
Fashion-wise, D.C. is kind of a restrained town, but you’ve got a standout look. Do you get comments?
All the time, all the time. People always give compliments. Or some people might think it’s weird. They might not have the context to understand it. It’s not that this is a square town, but politics, the White House and Capitol Hill: That’s the ecosystem of this city. The average guy in this city isn’t going to have a style where they’re like, “Ooh, I want to do something different.”
I’m thinking about stealing your style.
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