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Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation

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Can't Stop Won't Stop is a powerful cultural and social history of the end of the American century, and a provocative look into the new world that the hip-hop generation created. Forged in the fires of the Bronx and Kingston, Jamaica, hip-hop became the Esperanto of youth rebellion and a generation-defining movement. In a post-civil rights era defined by deindustrialization Can't Stop Won't Stop is a powerful cultural and social history of the end of the American century, and a provocative look into the new world that the hip-hop generation created. Forged in the fires of the Bronx and Kingston, Jamaica, hip-hop became the Esperanto of youth rebellion and a generation-defining movement. In a post-civil rights era defined by deindustrialization and globalization, hip-hop crystallized a multiracial, polycultural generation's worldview, and transformed American politics and culture. But that epic story has never been told with this kind of breadth, insight, and style. Based on original interviews with DJs, b-boys, rappers, graffiti writers, activists, and gang members, with unforgettable portraits of many of hip-hop's forebears, founders, and mavericks, including DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Chuck D, and Ice Cube, Can't Stop Won't Stop chronicles the events, the ideas, the music, and the art that marked the hip-hop generation's rise from the ashes of the 60's into the new millennium.


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Can't Stop Won't Stop is a powerful cultural and social history of the end of the American century, and a provocative look into the new world that the hip-hop generation created. Forged in the fires of the Bronx and Kingston, Jamaica, hip-hop became the Esperanto of youth rebellion and a generation-defining movement. In a post-civil rights era defined by deindustrialization Can't Stop Won't Stop is a powerful cultural and social history of the end of the American century, and a provocative look into the new world that the hip-hop generation created. Forged in the fires of the Bronx and Kingston, Jamaica, hip-hop became the Esperanto of youth rebellion and a generation-defining movement. In a post-civil rights era defined by deindustrialization and globalization, hip-hop crystallized a multiracial, polycultural generation's worldview, and transformed American politics and culture. But that epic story has never been told with this kind of breadth, insight, and style. Based on original interviews with DJs, b-boys, rappers, graffiti writers, activists, and gang members, with unforgettable portraits of many of hip-hop's forebears, founders, and mavericks, including DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Chuck D, and Ice Cube, Can't Stop Won't Stop chronicles the events, the ideas, the music, and the art that marked the hip-hop generation's rise from the ashes of the 60's into the new millennium.

30 review for Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ben Winch

    For those popular music fans who still can't see the innovation in hip-hop, maybe this book will help. It's flawed - by the second half I mostly tuned out as Public Enemy and Ice Cube (not my favourites) took centre stage and the political thrust of Jeff Chang's argument grew strained - but for putting the birth of the movement in perspective musically and culturally it's hard to beat. Chang knows his stuff, and whether he's talking about gang wars in the Bronx, block parties and Jamaican sound For those popular music fans who still can't see the innovation in hip-hop, maybe this book will help. It's flawed - by the second half I mostly tuned out as Public Enemy and Ice Cube (not my favourites) took centre stage and the political thrust of Jeff Chang's argument grew strained - but for putting the birth of the movement in perspective musically and culturally it's hard to beat. Chang knows his stuff, and whether he's talking about gang wars in the Bronx, block parties and Jamaican sound systems or the birth of turntablism, his passion for his subject shines through. Two turntables and a microphone, man! No money for drumkits, amps, guitars - just grab two copies of the same record and loop the instrumental section (hell, cut up a whole bunch of records together if you're game), then add poetry. I'm not kidding: sure, you might bemoan the bling-obsessed aggression and shallow sexuality that you hear in passing as you switch radio-channels in your car, but the best of these guys can rhyme circles around Bob Dylan, at least rhythmically, with multiple internal rhymes, rhymes running over or falling short of the line-break, oftentimes the line break not even observed, and all of it told in an urban patois that's as funny as it is street-smart. You don't like the violence? Shit, you read Raymond Chandler, don't you? You watch Hollywood thrillers? Thing is (a) all rap isn't gangsta rap, and (b) gangsta rap uses genre conventions to generate excitement, make you laugh and entertain you, just like your favourite thriller. True, MCing is a competitive field, and most of these guys came up 'dissing' each other for laughs and effect in 12-bar-a-piece battles (like you see in Eminem's 8 Mile - you've seen 8 Mile, haven't you? It's the Karate Kid of rap movies!). Me, I think it's straight-up fucking beautiful that these guys (and a few girls) choose to 'battle' with words, frequently on streetcorners or in the park or on the subway with nothing more than a ghetto blaster or a guy beatboxing (making the beat with his mouth) or - so I hear, these days - a fucking mobile phone churning out the backing. 'Necessity is the mother of invention,' my mother always said. And rap music is a genius invention - possibly the most significant development in popular music since the advent of amplification. I mean, anyone who knows me knows I love everything from blues to jazz to punk to 'post-rock'; I don't live and breathe hip-hop. But write off these musicians and poets at your peril: these are frequently serious, committed artists making bold statements to large crowds who listen. They're trained in creating on the fly, able to respond artistically to situations as they happen and able to camouflage their message, and if there's ever a popular uprising in the United States it just might be their words and beats that popularise it. I'm at work in a quiet bookshop at the moment, so I can't go looking this stuff up on youtube, but if you're curious here's some favourites to check out: Sugarhill Gang - 'Rapper's Delight' Grandmaster Flash - 'Adventures on the Wheels of Steel' Afrika Bambaataa - 'Bambaataa's Theme' Furious Five - 'The Message' Run DMC - 'It's Tricky' Beastie Boys - 'The New Style' Eric B & Rakim - 'I Know You Got Soul' Boogie Down Productions - 'Criminal Minded' Mobb Deep - 'Give Up the Goods (Just Step)' Nas - 'I Gave You Power' GZA - 'Shadowboxin'' Tupac - 'Only God Can Judge Me' Notorious B.I.G. - 'Sky's the Limit' A Tribe Called Quest - 'Jazz (We've Got)' Company Flow - 'Population Control' Mos Def & Talib Kweli - 'Thieves in the Night' Blackalicious - 'Alphabet Aerobics' Eminem - '97 Bonnie & Clyde' J Dilla - 'Last Donut of the Night'

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marija

    If you are searching for a book, which will enlighten you about the most relevant ambassadors of hip-hop music, I guess this is not the right one for you then. For many of us who used to listen to hip-hop (and still do), this book probably lacks a good deal of references essentially valuable to most genuine fans. Just like any other music, hip-hop has an enormous emotional impact on the listeners beyond racial and cultural scope. Was the focus shifted to its musical values, this story would be If you are searching for a book, which will enlighten you about the most relevant ambassadors of hip-hop music, I guess this is not the right one for you then. For many of us who used to listen to hip-hop (and still do), this book probably lacks a good deal of references essentially valuable to most genuine fans. Just like any other music, hip-hop has an enormous emotional impact on the listeners beyond racial and cultural scope. Was the focus shifted to its musical values, this story would be certainly completely different. Is this a book, which deals with hip-hop music as a movement within essential historical and social changes in the US? Absolutely! Therefore, “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” is an in-depth analysis of American society rather than the story about music style. If you are longing for a detailed chronicle about the process of development and expansion of hip-hop, you should definitely read it. The narrative is loaded with details, which regard the “post-civil rights generation”…” the poster children of “post-,” the leftovers in the dirty kitchen of yesterday feast” in various social aspects. Seethed hip-hop generation was facing as many challenges as the society itself, often unsuccessful in redeeming itself by dealing with the same social, racial and financial issues that basically established hip-hop as a music style. From the condition of no work, hip-hop emerged as a backlash against old values, unambiguous racial intolerance, and “benign neglect” alongside the additional historical absence of public responsibility. “South Bronx was nothing less than “a Necropolis – a city of death”. Chang is successfully contrasting “silk-jacketed, doo-wop singing gangs of the late 50s” or “the Boogaloo generation who had danced their nights away” in the 60s with the paroxysms of a new generation which possessed an insatiable hunger for success as a provenance of global cultural and financial shift in the music industry. Another aspect of the book is the tension between culture and commerce, a perpetual inspiration to the hip-hop generation. On “the streets, which spoke loudly”, graffiti art played a significant role in the history of hip-hop movement together with LA riots, constant gang battles and corporate order of the commercial business, which welcomed hip-hop leading edge figures generating accordingly billions in revenues. Basically, the crucial aspects of activism that accompany hip-hop movement are the following: literacy, school-attendance, voter registration and community investments. As cultural vanguards, hip-hop artists were challenged by the gender crisis, feminism, sexism and aggressive masculine pride. “Perhaps this new confusion – about race and class, underground and mainstream, keeping it real and making it big – was the ultimate price of the media bum-rush.” The preeminence of hip-hop has definitely indicated various global changes whose fundamentals are much more comprehensive with this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    So I'm biased 'cuz this was written by a friend of mine. But not so biased not to recognize when a seminal book on the historical and political context of hip-hop cultures and its generations since the late 1960s emerges that finds fans in academia, arts spaces, and all middle/high schools alike. The writing is accessible, with wily turns of phrases and references that embrace the high & low, the mass popular & artistic aesthetic, the mainstream & the underground alike. I'm a history So I'm biased 'cuz this was written by a friend of mine. But not so biased not to recognize when a seminal book on the historical and political context of hip-hop cultures and its generations since the late 1960s emerges that finds fans in academia, arts spaces, and all middle/high schools alike. The writing is accessible, with wily turns of phrases and references that embrace the high & low, the mass popular & artistic aesthetic, the mainstream & the underground alike. I'm a history buff and to see my own popular and personal experience as one from this generation (tho' not a hip-hop head, per se) laid out end to end on a chronology with a more comprehensive context, to lay it bare so I could make deeper connections, start to understand such divergent yet sometimes inherently cogent energies, was a reading journey I deeply appreciated. A great read and absorbing narrative. Loved the allusion to DeLillo's great prologue from UNDERWORLD at the start ("Longing on a large scale is what makes history.")-- it had me at "Generations are fictions" then kept me for good with "It was a bad night for baseball in the South Bronx..."

  4. 5 out of 5

    teddy

    academic tomes on hip-hop have a sobering tendency to come from artifice, revisionist histories written by out-of-touch scholars eager to stamp their name on uncharted territory. they pick landmarks and artists who, perhaps, are emblematic of the genre, but do not come from the perspective of a fan that's where jeff chang's "can't stop won't stop" is so successful. i'd say it's one of the first times i've read something scholarly about the genesis of -- arguably -- one of the world's most potent academic tomes on hip-hop have a sobering tendency to come from artifice, revisionist histories written by out-of-touch scholars eager to stamp their name on uncharted territory. they pick landmarks and artists who, perhaps, are emblematic of the genre, but do not come from the perspective of a fan that's where jeff chang's "can't stop won't stop" is so successful. i'd say it's one of the first times i've read something scholarly about the genesis of -- arguably -- one of the world's most potent cultural forces that is actually written by a child of hip-hop. he comes with an appreciation and understanding about what it is to be an MC. chang delves into the socioeconomic conditions surrounding the music's advent, ranging from the political unrest that held jamaica stricken in poverty, to the unruly youth gangs of 1970's new york city. he finds time to interview everybody, piecing together a history that explains and appeals to even casual listeners of the music.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Smalter Hall

    I've spent a long time craving the perfect history of hip-hop. Watched a few documentaries here, read a few books there... but never quite satisfied that desire to put it all in context as the sociopolitical movement it's always felt like to me. Until now, that is! Can't Stop Won't Stop is a dense little volume, telling the story of hip-hop alongside the stories of polarizing housing and economic reforms, police brutality, drug trafficking, and the fight inner-city communities have put up to I've spent a long time craving the perfect history of hip-hop. Watched a few documentaries here, read a few books there... but never quite satisfied that desire to put it all in context as the sociopolitical movement it's always felt like to me. Until now, that is! Can't Stop Won't Stop is a dense little volume, telling the story of hip-hop alongside the stories of polarizing housing and economic reforms, police brutality, drug trafficking, and the fight inner-city communities have put up to survive and create meaning via popular cultural movements: music, dance, the visual arts. It's not a quick or easy read, with Chang packing in as much history and context as each page can possibly hold. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the cultural and political events that birthed hip-hop, and in Can't Stop Won't Stop he gifts that knowledge to us, taking us from 1960s Jamaica to 1990s L.A., with a twenty-year stop in New York on the way. Chang does skip major artists in his history, which might disappoint some hip-hop fans, but I thought it was a great move in the context of this book. LL Cool J, Biggie, Wu-Tang --they're not really represented here, Chang having opted instead to showcase key artists in depth to emphasize sociopolitical conditions in inner-city communities: Afrika Bambaataa, Public Enemy, Ice Cube. And rather than deifying these hip-hop icons, which could be awfully tempting, Chang offers up a much more complex view of their work, putting it in dialogue with feminists and other activists who've often clashed with their views along the way. One of my favorite chapters is about Ice Cube's Death Warrant, the uber-macho gangster rap album that Chang first made me appreciate by showing how it evolved out of the race politics that defined L.A. during the Rodney King era of police brutality. But then, turn the page, and there's a transcript of Ice Cube in conversation with a prominent black feminist who questions his portrayal of women on the album. This is why I loved reading Chang! -- he puts it all in context, but without oversimplifying. He both celebrates the art form and dissects the politics, giving us layers upon layers to unravel.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    I found this a bit disappointing to be honest, but that's in large part because I was expecting something different. Chang doesn't really get into music/graffiti/lyrics/dancing very much at all; he does, though, do a great job of explaining the social context in which all that art was produced. So keep in mind that that's what you're getting - a history of gang culture, youth politics and (most impressively) urban geography at the end of the twentieth century - and you'll probably enjoy the I found this a bit disappointing to be honest, but that's in large part because I was expecting something different. Chang doesn't really get into music/graffiti/lyrics/dancing very much at all; he does, though, do a great job of explaining the social context in which all that art was produced. So keep in mind that that's what you're getting - a history of gang culture, youth politics and (most impressively) urban geography at the end of the twentieth century - and you'll probably enjoy the book. That said, there are major flaws, starting with the fact that it's hard to read. Not because Chang doesn't write clearly, because he does. It's just *literally* hard to read; the font's a couple of pixels better than Comic Sans. Who in their right mind sets a book in a sans-serif font? Are the publishers trying to send a whole generation of readers blind? More importantly, Chang's incredible research - really, amazing - is undermined by an overly simplistic political frame, which you could pretty much describe as 'Fuck the Man.' Sometimes the Man has it coming. Sometimes whoever it is that isn't the man has to take some of the blame. But you'd never know that from this book; here it's *always* the Man's fault and His alone. So there's a weird 90s vibe to the whole thing. In the Prelude Chang writes that 'Hip-Hop Generation' describes, among other things, "the turn from politics to culture." I have no idea what he was thinking when he wrote that, because his book is almost entirely about politics, activism, in particular. That makes the book tendentious: chapters on Public Enemy and (mid-period) Ice Cube, but nothing on ATCQ or any of the other late-80s early 90s geniuses? A chapter on The Source, but nothing on the indies that emerged after that magazine imploded? And, weirdest of all, chapters on the Million Man March and anti-Globalization protests, but only a passing mention of the incredible music of that time (Wu-Tang, for instance, is mentioned only as an antagonist of The Source's editorial crew, and in one line about nineties paranoia). Obviously this isn't because he doesn't know his stuff; he's forgotten more about hip-hop than I'll ever know (seriously, the man co-founded SoleSides. He knows his stuff). It's just that the book turns out to be more a history of many-raced activists, and has very little to say about music. Here's hoping he brings his writing style and impeccable research skills to a book about the music, graf, and dancing.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kony

    Panoramic biography of hip-hop: its birth, flourishing, and growing pains. Tough read, but worth the struggle. Why tough? (1) Text is dense. Chang packs paragraphs with obscure names and pithy phrases, so unless you're both hip-hop guru and literary genius, you must slow down to unravel the language. First few chapters are a doozy, but keep going. The storytelling gets better. (2) Storylines are many and non-linear. Chang jumps between decades and locales, skipping around in time and constantly Panoramic biography of hip-hop: its birth, flourishing, and growing pains. Tough read, but worth the struggle. Why tough? (1) Text is dense. Chang packs paragraphs with obscure names and pithy phrases, so unless you're both hip-hop guru and literary genius, you must slow down to unravel the language. First few chapters are a doozy, but keep going. The storytelling gets better. (2) Storylines are many and non-linear. Chang jumps between decades and locales, skipping around in time and constantly introducing new subplots. He zooms in and out between biographical close-ups and big-picture trends. All this can make you dizzy. Narrative threads don't neatly cohere into a broad theme - but this reflects the nature of the subject: a complex, evolving culture. And Chang tells its story in a smart, passionate voice, bringing to life its creative genius and political drama with deep knowledge and comprehensive research. He doesn't slow down to spell things out, though, so the more prior knowledge you bring to this book, the more you'll appreciate it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Chaikin

    The book is dated, but what do I know? Outside the Beastie Boys and the maybe not-quite-Hip-Hop Red Hot Chili Peppers, I kind of missed this whole thing. Chang, currently the executive director the Institute for Diversity in the Arts, at Stanford University, writes an incomplete selective history of Hip-Hip and the cultures it came from. He's both fascinating and frustrating, but more the former than the later. He presents an elaborate narrative from the Jamaica of Bob Marley, to the The book is dated, but what do I know? Outside the Beastie Boys and the maybe not-quite-Hip-Hop Red Hot Chili Peppers, I kind of missed this whole thing. Chang, currently the executive director the Institute for Diversity in the Arts, at Stanford University, writes an incomplete selective history of Hip-Hip and the cultures it came from. He's both fascinating and frustrating, but more the former than the later. He presents an elaborate narrative from the Jamaica of Bob Marley, to the Jamaica-immigrant driven street Hip-Hop scene in the black and latino New York inner and suburban neighborhoods, to the take off of Hip-Hop in the mainstream culture and arts. He picks places to focus on, especially Marley, DJ Kool Herc (who wrote the introduction), Grandmaster Flash, graffiti artists like the Fab 5, to Public Enemy, to, when the book finally leaves New York for LA (about 3/4's in), Ice Cube, and NWA, and finally a long take on the magazine The Source. And he ties it all in, mostly, the Jamaican politics, a painfully detailed and confusion history of certain aspects of the New York gangs, police violence against blacks, over and over, and more and more horrifying, to Watts, Compton and the Rodney King Riots. But the book has some narrative issue at this point. Did the LA riots in 1992 really impact Hip-Hop? I couldn't tell from this, because Chang changes course attacking the music industry for it's failure to identify that Hip-Hop was the about the fastest growing music market in the 1990's, and then attacking US policy for allowing Clear Channel to sterilize American radio on a national scale. That's a lot, and wanders off in way too much detail on a lot of this stuff, which is maybe ok. But there are gaping holes, and, as far as I can tell, he didn't interview anyone. He just quotes news articles and published sources. While reading it I looked up some YouTube videos on the early history of Hip-Hop and found a world of characters and names and voices he barely indicates exists. Most of these people are still around and they want to talk about the era, the technology tricks, the personalities, the crowds and cultural feedback. There is so much rich information, so much not here. It's a major oddball flaw, and one he never expresses. You get his summaries defined as complete. They're not. Still, a good experience, and I'm glad I listened. I have a lot of music to explore... ----------------------------------------------- 50. Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang Introduction DJ Kool Herc reader: Mirron Willis published: 2005 (2016 on audio) format: 19:33 Libby audiobook (560 pages in hardcover) acquired: Library listened: Aug 20-31, Sep 11-25 rating: 3

  9. 4 out of 5

    Omid Wisdom

    Insightful..

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I loved this book. My only criticism is that it has a political bias (but so does much of hip hop culture, so in some ways, it's appropriate). Things I praise in this book: -The volume, depth and scope of the author's research -The mix of many angles from which he writes history, going from biography/storytelling to economic/political history to cultural history to material culture to musical analysis - Chang demands your sustained attention by presenting a unique challenge to merely keep up with I loved this book. My only criticism is that it has a political bias (but so does much of hip hop culture, so in some ways, it's appropriate). Things I praise in this book: -The volume, depth and scope of the author's research -The mix of many angles from which he writes history, going from biography/storytelling to economic/political history to cultural history to material culture to musical analysis - Chang demands your sustained attention by presenting a unique challenge to merely keep up with him (in keeping with hip hop, to be sure, and with the book's title). There's never a dull moment. -The yin/yang feeling of this book - for example, on the subject of drug use in the Bronx ghetto, Chang plays the roles of apologist and detractor alike. (Maybe some people would find this annoying, but I liked it. I thought it added psychological depth.) -Chang's clear love for hip hop culture and its "four legs": music (beats), dance (breakdance), art (grafitti), and narrative (lyricism). On second thought, I have another criticism. I wish the book had included a glossary of hip hop terminology. It made the first half of the book "challenging" in parts - in a bad way. Bumpin' it down a star......

  11. 4 out of 5

    George

    i just heard an interview with KRS where he criticized Jeff Chang and this book saying it was a little too "fan boy" and didn't compile contradicting sources and sort it out, just if "kool herc said it, it's true." he's right in some ways, and i don't think that really interfers with the book. he's definitely not too much of a oozing/gushing kiss ass; sometimes he's obviously excited by a record and at other times he's obviously taking an overly academic approach to the music. In terms of it i just heard an interview with KRS where he criticized Jeff Chang and this book saying it was a little too "fan boy" and didn't compile contradicting sources and sort it out, just if "kool herc said it, it's true." he's right in some ways, and i don't think that really interfers with the book. he's definitely not too much of a oozing/gushing kiss ass; sometimes he's obviously excited by a record and at other times he's obviously taking an overly academic approach to the music. In terms of it being one sided, it's a side i hadn't heard so i think it's a great place to start and it will without a doubt keep you searching and scrambling for more information to fill in the blanks or compound the meaning of events. seriously, a super super read, starts with Jamaican Dj'ing and goes into the 70's latino gangs of NYC and then through all the old school NY rap, gangsta rap, up to the present day. particularly the first half you don't even have to know about the music or records to get a feel for what's happening. after that it's pretty musical in it's context so you may have to start getting some records to keep up, but you'll be thankful.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    The first half, chronicling the beginnings of hip-hop from early dub records to Grandmaster Flash and the first graffiti artists is great. It brought a new perspective to the music for me and had me digging for countless albums for weeks. The second half, where the book focuses more on the "hip-hop generation" than the story of the music, is where it begins to fall apart a little bit. There is still great stuff, especially where the author helps place some songs and albums in the context of what The first half, chronicling the beginnings of hip-hop from early dub records to Grandmaster Flash and the first graffiti artists is great. It brought a new perspective to the music for me and had me digging for countless albums for weeks. The second half, where the book focuses more on the "hip-hop generation" than the story of the music, is where it begins to fall apart a little bit. There is still great stuff, especially where the author helps place some songs and albums in the context of what was going on with LA police and gang culture at the time. In this way, the book is great for any music fan, even if you don't enjoy hip-hop - it excited you to look for records you haven't heard before and makes you rethink the genre. Where the book fails is really in the final third where the focus narrows to activist culture (sometimes really tenously attached to hip-hop) and gives a lot of stage to some questionable ideas without questioning them. Regardless of the final third, it's still one of the best music books I have ever read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Opetoritse

    Chang's sweeping coverage of hip-hop's origins and major developments up to the year 2000 is packed with intimate details, extensive contextualization, and utter respect for the artists. The writing itself is in an undeniable hip-hop style, mixing, rapping, breaking, and tagging history in engaging and flowing prose. Rather than attempting the impossible task of including the stories every major figure, Chang selects several prominent actors who serve as representatives for the branching Chang's sweeping coverage of hip-hop's origins and major developments up to the year 2000 is packed with intimate details, extensive contextualization, and utter respect for the artists. The writing itself is in an undeniable hip-hop style, mixing, rapping, breaking, and tagging history in engaging and flowing prose. Rather than attempting the impossible task of including the stories every major figure, Chang selects several prominent actors who serve as representatives for the branching directions of the cultural movement. Some important moments, however, are conspicuously absent, such as the infamous East coast vs. West coast beefs (particularly the story of B.I.G. and Pac), the controversial mainstream phenomenons of the Fresh Prince and Eminem, and basically the second half of the 90s. The geographic scope is also fairly limited, dealing primarily with New York City and Los Angeles. Of course, there's only so much you can fit into a book that approaches 500 pages without including the (extremely useful) back matter, but I feel that some of the socioeconomic contextualization could have been trimmed in favor of addressing more landmark events of the culture itself. As fascinating and immersive as it was to learn about the rise of dub and reggae, the gangs of 70's NYC, and the timeline of the Rodney King Rebellion, these subjects could have been given more compact synopses in order to keep hip-hop in the spotlight. All that being said, this is easily a must read for any hip-hop enthusiast.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karina

    Let's begin with my main obstacle to appreciating much of the artists labelled with the hip hop genre - the pathetic macho posturing of the likes of Public Enemy NWA etc that fall under the sub category of so called gangsta rap. This book has helped to put that criticism into context. Perhaps it's no surprise given that many of the original performers came from the street gangs of NYC and LA. There's an illuminating meeting between Angela Davis and Ice Cube in which she basically challenges his Let's begin with my main obstacle to appreciating much of the artists labelled with the hip hop genre - the pathetic macho posturing of the likes of Public Enemy NWA etc that fall under the sub category of so called gangsta rap. This book has helped to put that criticism into context. Perhaps it's no surprise given that many of the original performers came from the street gangs of NYC and LA. There's an illuminating meeting between Angela Davis and Ice Cube in which she basically challenges his attitude toward his black sisters. Among the first wave of rap artists there were few representatives of the fair sex - unlike the black music of previous eras in which girl singers and groups were an integral part. So for me hip hops claim to represent the black consciousness wasn't entirely credible. Again some of the images associated with the leading artists smacked of the glamorisation of violence that from this side of the ocean seems so abhorrent. Despite these reservations there has been plenty of cool music inspired by the hip hop generation. Some reviewers have complained that this book is overtly political but I feel that it puts the rise of hip hop into perspective against the backdrop of what seems to the outsider a relentless racism inherent in the US justice system. To return to my main complaint about rap though the author has noted that in the dying years of the last century female artists tended to become associated with the emerging label of "neo soul" rather than hip hop. One thinks of Erykah Badu whose collaborations with The Roots produced such sublime records. Chang's book ends at the start of the millennium before the hip hop generation was truly assimilated into the mainstream and its original energy diluted. That's the way the industry works though - everything is turned into bland product eventually. Another book * defines the hip hop generation as the first generation of black people to have grown up in post segregation America in the 20 years from 1965. Now I'm not only white but English so I guess I don't belong even though I'm the right age. Despite being a white English girl I've always been into black music - whether it came from the ghettoes of Bristol the backyards of Jamaica or the tenements of the Bronx. Hip hop has always been there for me. So this is a neat cultural reference that tells me about its origins and how it all came about. Indeed there's more of the spirit of hip hop in these pages than there is in many of the records made by today's superstars of the genre. Nostalgia for the early days and in particular the sounds of the 90's is flooding through me. Those pioneering artists like Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash paved the way for some very cool sounds that emerged in my teens. So over there you had the hip hop and over here we had what they called Trip Hop. Now if somebody could write a decent history of that particular scene I'd be highly interested. After reading this I wouldn't want to live in America. Despite having lived in the less salubrious parts of some European cities it seems that the racism and the level of police aggression in the US are on another level entirely. But part of this may be due to the American gun culture which doesn't even exist in Europe. Nowhere in this book is that even offered as a solution. *The hip hop generation " by Bakari Kitwana

  15. 5 out of 5

    Diz

    This book seems like two books glued together. The first half focuses on the 70's and early 80's. It provides a good overview of the social conditions that contributed to the rise of hip-hop. The founders of hip-hop (DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Africa Bambaataa) get quite a lot of coverage. Since this section focuses strongly on the artists and the development of the four pillars of hip-hop (DJing, MCing, breaking, and graffiti), it is a lot of fun to read. The second half of the book This book seems like two books glued together. The first half focuses on the 70's and early 80's. It provides a good overview of the social conditions that contributed to the rise of hip-hop. The founders of hip-hop (DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Africa Bambaataa) get quite a lot of coverage. Since this section focuses strongly on the artists and the development of the four pillars of hip-hop (DJing, MCing, breaking, and graffiti), it is a lot of fun to read. The second half of the book focuses much more on politics, starting with Public Enemy. The discussion is more about the message than the music or the culture. After Public Enemy, the discussion of artists drops off sharply. N.W.A. gets some coverage, but not as much as you would expect considering their influence. After that, the discussion of artists disappears, and the focus shifts to discussing magazine editors and political activists, which wasn't very interesting to read. To break down my rating, the first half of the book is a 5-star read and the second half of the book is a 3-star read. If you pick this up at the library, just read it up to Public Enemy and then drop it after that.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I'm not sure what audience this book was aimed at. It wasn't really an academic work - the tone was conversational and assumed a fair bit of knowledge of the main players in hip-hop in the past. It would not really appeal to younger fans of hip-hop, though, because although it did discuss a lot of the founders of the movement and how they affected social culture, it did so in a superficial way without, again, really explaining to an outside/younger audience why these players were important. I I'm not sure what audience this book was aimed at. It wasn't really an academic work - the tone was conversational and assumed a fair bit of knowledge of the main players in hip-hop in the past. It would not really appeal to younger fans of hip-hop, though, because although it did discuss a lot of the founders of the movement and how they affected social culture, it did so in a superficial way without, again, really explaining to an outside/younger audience why these players were important. I would have liked more information on the context of any of the players - for instance, the South Bronx gang leaders. My second gripe is purely personal - the font is the sort of font that the "feel good" books of the early 70's were written in. Perhaps that was purposeful - to be evocative of the time that a lot of the action was taking place - but it made me take the book less seriously. OK, I know I'm in a minority in my views on this book. Perhaps that was part of the problem - I was expecting too much after reading the reviews.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gunnar

    As a socio-economic/cultural history of hip-hop, it's brilliant and extremely comprehensive. As a history of the music, it's not. But then again, I don't think an encyclopedic history of the music was what the author intended. Still, there are things in hip-hop history that I wish Chang had discussed---the 90s East/West coast tension and the murders of 2Pac and Biggie are stunning omissions from the narrative. And on a personal note, I was bummed that the Wu didn't get any discussion. Hip-hop As a socio-economic/cultural history of hip-hop, it's brilliant and extremely comprehensive. As a history of the music, it's not. But then again, I don't think an encyclopedic history of the music was what the author intended. Still, there are things in hip-hop history that I wish Chang had discussed---the 90s East/West coast tension and the murders of 2Pac and Biggie are stunning omissions from the narrative. And on a personal note, I was bummed that the Wu didn't get any discussion. Hip-hop may have started in the South Bronx and been baptized in South Central, but its detour through Staten Island birthed the greatest rap collective ever. But Chang clearly loves hip-hop, and it shows. He really "represent[s]," so to speak. What's more, he's incredibly sharp. Clairvoyant, even. The sections on the downfall of quality radio stations in the 90s to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, as well as his dissection of why popular music got shitty in the late 90s were surprising additions to his already eloquent discussion of hip-hop. Overall, great stuff.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sidik Fofana

    SIX WORD REVIEW: Boom bap history, left of center.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nickie

    I feel bad about only giving it 3 stars, but this only really took off from about page 200 when it got into Public Enemy and beyond. It's impressibly expansive - from the birth of dub in jamaica, to the black panthers, b-boys, punk, the new wave art scene, police brutality, woeful/intentionally non-existent domestic policy in inner cities, public enemy, anti-semitism, the L.A. riots and beyond. chang is so much better on social history/politics than he is on actually describing the music. shame I feel bad about only giving it 3 stars, but this only really took off from about page 200 when it got into Public Enemy and beyond. It's impressibly expansive - from the birth of dub in jamaica, to the black panthers, b-boys, punk, the new wave art scene, police brutality, woeful/intentionally non-existent domestic policy in inner cities, public enemy, anti-semitism, the L.A. riots and beyond. chang is so much better on social history/politics than he is on actually describing the music. shame it was written before hurricane katrina, another example of american domestic policy neglecting its black population. maybe room for an epilogue at some stage...

  20. 4 out of 5

    vowelry

    The bible for Hip-Hop culture.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    This book was not at all what I thought it was going to be. I was thinking it would be sort of a timeline of the history of rap music with some cool "insider" stories and facts. Something light and fun and interesting. What I got was an incredibly insightful, provocative, informative social history of the generation that produced the hip hop lifestyle: graffiti, fashion, dancing and, of course, music. I realized I had to revisit my definition of "old school" when it took 200 pages just to get to This book was not at all what I thought it was going to be. I was thinking it would be sort of a timeline of the history of rap music with some cool "insider" stories and facts. Something light and fun and interesting. What I got was an incredibly insightful, provocative, informative social history of the generation that produced the hip hop lifestyle: graffiti, fashion, dancing and, of course, music. I realized I had to revisit my definition of "old school" when it took 200 pages just to get to Run DMC! Far more than a musical discussion, "Can't Stop Won't Stop" read like a textbook about the oft-forsaken inner city youth in America in the last half of the 20th century. Pretty amazing book, actually. Very historical, very political, very gut-wrenching. Very disturbing. And yet, very fun and accessible. If the topic interests you, read it. You will not be disappointed. There is so much about America that I don't know. So many experiences seen through so many different eyes. Thank God for books like this to expose truths and tell stories that are neglected by the main stream. It reminds me how little I know...and to be much better at listening than spouting off my opinions.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    This was exactly what I was hoping it to be...touching on racial, gender, social, cultural, historical, political, and economic issues in addition to the development of the music itself. Exhaustive but only scratches the surface. So much of it kept me thinking, "The more things change..." and I can't help but hope for an update for everything that's happened since 2005.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matthew FitzSimmons

    One chapter in, and I know I'm going to love this book. Doesn't talk about hip hop directly, but lays out a history of the destruction of a community by the Cross Bronx Expressway that is heartbreaking. Can't wait to see what comes next. The man can write.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    I wanted to know more about the hip hop itself and not about the context of segregation and crime and the other stuff that I read about all the time. So the parts that were good were great, but I think the book was too broad and needed some more editing and narrowing and more of a thesis.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bobby Z.

    Absolutely engrossing. Not just a great music history book, but a great history book, plain and simple.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ilana

    I'm so thankful I got to read this book. It's truly exceptional.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jake Epstein

    Interesting read overall, though I feel the author could have checked his ideology at the door in some instances. As someone who's read works by James Q. Wilson and John DiIulio, I can definitely say they are not the far-right demagogues that Chang presents them as. At best, I'd label them center-right.(That's just one of the many examples of unnecessary political bias in this text). Overall, I'd say the first half (which traced hip hop's origins out of the politics of abandonment in the South Interesting read overall, though I feel the author could have checked his ideology at the door in some instances. As someone who's read works by James Q. Wilson and John DiIulio, I can definitely say they are not the far-right demagogues that Chang presents them as. At best, I'd label them center-right.(That's just one of the many examples of unnecessary political bias in this text). Overall, I'd say the first half (which traced hip hop's origins out of the politics of abandonment in the South Bronx and the legendary Jamaican sound clashes of the 60's through to the "golden age" NY hip hop scene) was near flawless. However, following the lengthy chapter on seminal Long Island act Public Enemy and the tenuous history of Black-Jewish relationships which influenced the group's rhetoric, I'd say the book took a slightly downward course once it proceeded towards addressing the West Coast scene and the rise of hip hop as a commodity. Maybe it's because I'm better acquainted with the NY scene, but I didn't find the West Coast portion particularly informative apart from the sections on NWA and gangsta rap (none of which was news to me). Additionally, I felt FAR TOO MUCH time was devoted to internal drama at The Source and Vibe magazines. Come on now....this is a book on hip hop. If I wanted a glimpse into the FASCINATING world of the high advertising industry, I'd watch Mad Men. While I understand the point the author was trying to convey here regarding the way the music industry's stifles artist creativity and implicitly sets the public's listening preferences by branding Jay-Z as "mainstream" and Talib Kweli as "conscious", I nevertheless found myself skimming these sections heavily. None of the above complaints would even register as significant in my opinion if this type of content hadn't superseded the fascinating history of the 90's hardcore, alternative and Southern scenes. Wu-Tang Clan is my favorite rap group (so I'm definitely biased here) and I counted a grand total of 2 references to what is arguably one of the most influential and commercially successful acts of all time. And one of these references compared their style to OutKast, which is ludicrous (no pun intended)! One reference to Mobb Deep (in the same sentence), nothing about RZA, GZA, GangStarr, Big L, Tribe Called Quest, etc.! Also nothing about the Beastie Boys (whose 1989 album "Paul's Boutique" raised the bar for sampling as an art-form to sky high levels and which were a noted influence on Public Enemy's sample-heavy sound, as well as the sound of countless others). Also, considering the book was published in 2005, not even a single reference to Kanye West to be found! I could go on about the amount of interesting and relevant detail which was omitted in favor of the filler mentioned in the previous paragraph, but I will stop now :) Overall, a great read. However, Chang's shift in focus from a historical retrospective about the development of a genre of music and culture to a broader dissection of America's political, societal, and economic institutions registers this a 4, rather than 5 star read in my opinion. These are undoubtedly important sociological issues to discuss, but I simply feel a book on music is not the best venue for doing so.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Suuuuuper dense. It's not a history of hip hop, per se, it covers media, music, politics, and history. Want to learn some shit about racism? Music? Media? This is for you.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mack

    Can’t Stop, Wont Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation Hip-Hop, the word means many things to different people. Some may say it’s that annoying stuff on the radio while others may say it’s an art form or just another musical genre. Can’t Stop, Wont Stop will change the way you think about Hip-Hop. It starts in the birth of Hip-Hop at the Bronx during the 1970’s when people are just starting to rap, break dance and graffiti. It shows the hardship of being in “The Game” back then when you had Can’t Stop, Wont Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation Hip-Hop, the word means many things to different people. Some may say it’s that annoying stuff on the radio while others may say it’s an art form or just another musical genre. Can’t Stop, Wont Stop will change the way you think about Hip-Hop. It starts in the birth of Hip-Hop at the Bronx during the 1970’s when people are just starting to rap, break dance and graffiti. It shows the hardship of being in “The Game” back then when you had to be in a gang, and also most of the rappers were also graffiti artists. Can’t Stop, Wont Stop is the best nonfiction I have read because: one it shows how we got where we are today, two there is some dialog it isn’t straight facts and three it is about subjects I am interested in. The first reason I enjoyed this book is because it has some dialog and isn’t straight facts. It also tells a story. There is an interview with Grandmaster Flash, one of the first MC’s in the game. It doesn’t just tell you straight facts, the author Jeff Chang makes it flow from section to section. The next reason is that it shows the uprising of Hip-Hop and where we are now. To be honest with you I think the quality of Hip-Hop music has gone down ever since Biggie Smalls died. But the sound that the music produces the beats in the background have increased, for instance “Rappers Delight” still had that disco feel but that soon changed to a more darker, faster beat was soon picked up. It turned into battles like who could out rap who and the beats got faster and better. The final reason this is the best nonfiction book I’ve read is because it is about stuff I like. That may just be good book selection but it really is true, I like Hip-Hop music. That was most of the book how it developed and how people reacted to it. I also like graffiti and that was a lot of the book in the beginning but not so much near the end. Can’t Stop, Wont Stop is the best nonfiction I have read because: one it shows how Hip-Hop got to be were it is today, two there is some dialog, it isn’t straight facts and three, it is about a subject I like. Before reading this book, I watched a series of movies on Youtube called “Style Wars” not knowing it was about the same stuff I was going to read about. It is a very good series and if you like this book you should definitely watch the movies.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chad Walker

    Pay attention to the title here: emphasis is on the word "generation." As Chang says in the intro, generations are fictional constructs we use to make sense of Middle History (not current/not old). When he says "hip hop," he means multi-racial/cultural/lingual, largely urban (I don't mean black, I mean based in an urban area), and a group whose common cultural currency will include everything from Different Strokes to Thriller to cassette mixtapes. In other words, a generation come of age in the Pay attention to the title here: emphasis is on the word "generation." As Chang says in the intro, generations are fictional constructs we use to make sense of Middle History (not current/not old). When he says "hip hop," he means multi-racial/cultural/lingual, largely urban (I don't mean black, I mean based in an urban area), and a group whose common cultural currency will include everything from Different Strokes to Thriller to cassette mixtapes. In other words, a generation come of age in the 70's and 80's - this book goes beyond the music, beyond the four elements to encompass the sociocultural trends of what was happening during the time period. Okay, it does focus mostly on the music, and Chang has a pretty encyclopedic knowledge of all the singles, B-sides and guest spots that make up the first Golden Age of hip hop. That, in fact, is where this book is strongest: the scratched and cut core of hip hop music, from about the arrival of Grandmaster Flash to the moment Rakim told us to check out his melody. The sections on graffiti are informative as well. Beyond that, it seemed like a lot of simplification, a lot of cramming a twisting, complicated picture into one straightforward narrative. That didn't entirely work for me. I think placing the beginnings of the hip hop generation in Kingston is a bit of a stretch - that was one influence among many. And I think the sections about the rise of LA and beyond are interesting, but lose a lot of focus. So it is definitely worth a read - and if you do, I recommend having a good collection of old school singles you can listen to in between - but it is far from the definitive account of the time. A great contribution to that story, but not the last word.

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