Arts Desk

Listen: Christylez Bacon, Hip-Hop UnPlugged

ChrisYou've probably seen Christylez Bacon even if you didn't know it was him. His picture was emblazoned on the Convention Center for a while. Or maybe you've seen Bacon peddle his bike through the city en route to a gig.

Then there's the ensemble: He looks like a member of the Jackson 5 and dresses like Andre 3000. He's a new-age Doug E. Fresh who beatboxes and spits uplifting rhymes. And oh yeah, he plays acoustic guitar and the spoons.

So Bacon isn't your typical rapper; he's an eclectic hip-hop artist who borrows from soul, folk, and bluegrass. For his new EP, Hip-Hop UnPlugged, Bacon speaks directly to the youth with five kid-ready tracks that discuss educational disparities and the income gap. Album opener, "It's the Beatbox," pays homage to late D.C. icon Chuck Brown with a swanky go-go swing and vocal percussion.

On "Children Album Gangsta," Christylez mocks his G-rated style: He goes to the bar and orders juice, "apples with the mango, no hangover so I'm boosted." And please believe, performing for children is tough: "A children's show is harder than the Showtime at the Apollo/And they don't need a sandman to take you away pronto/Now kids stay excited, but if kids don't like it, they ain't gonna boo you, but they will start cryin'."

"Freedom" reinterprets Richie Havens' Woodstock classic with an updated riff on monetary dependence. As Christylez sees it, he's a slave to the U.S. dollar: "I need the money for the food and health care, the schools and bus fare/You can't pay the rent without the U.S. right there."

It all makes for a satisfying listen for adults and kids. With Hip-Hop UnPlugged, Christylez expresses his own kind of cool—the kind that allows him to set aside the conventional hip-hop rulebook. UnPlugged is affable and clever, much like the artist himself.

Listen to Hip-Hop UnPlugged below.

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