The Good Hope and Naylor Corner, Citified’s narrative stage, hosted a surprise joint-discussion with D.C. native Christylez Bacon and East L.A. musician Quetzal Flores. Christylez is a progressive hip-hop artist, multi-instrumentalist, educator, hip-hop ethnomusicologist, and snappy dresser. Quetzal is one of the core members of the East L.A. Chicano rock group Quetzal. Although the two musicians often play very different styles of music, they share similar ideas and approaches to music, performance, community, and advocacy.
Quetzal described Chicano rock as traditional music incorporated into an urban cultural milieu; a fusion of musical styles and eras. “It is about articulating the complexities of our cultural identities,” Quetzal explained; it is a transloco, transnational dialogue that crosses borders both figuratively and literally. Christylez calls his music “progressive hip-hop” and describes it as “non-traditional music using hip-hop elements.” He views hip-hop as more than just a beat for someone to rap over and makes it personal and unique by adding elements of jazz, funk, afrobeat, go-go, and more. Both Christylez and Quetzal look back to traditional elements to shape and express modern identity though musical fusion.
Quetzal and Christylez see music as a medium for activism. Christylez exclaimed “I am doing activism every day as I walk out the door”— activism isn’t limited to formal workshops and meetings. As an educator, Christylez works with kids in D.C. public schools to help them express their individuality and identity through music and creative writing. He believes that music is about consciousness and that through musical experimentation and exploration, kids can learn about their individual and collective identities. Quetzal intends for his music to remind people to practice music as a community. He explains, “Organizing community around the collective production of music is the first step towards building a social movement.” While Christylez comes from east of the Anacostia River, and Quetzal is from east of the L.A. River, and while their musical styles seem worlds apart, both of these artists found connections between their engagement in music as an expression of communal and individual identity. Both see music as a means for empowerment and education, as Quetzal explained, “What better way for an artist to sustain themselves than by sharing what know?”
Christylez Bacon will continue to perform during Week 2 in the Citified program area. Check the schedule for times and locations.
James Mayer is an intern at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. He recently graduated from Macalester College, where he studied History and Classics.