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Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation Kindle Edition
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Chang is excellent on the forces that drove the emergence of hip hop in its early days, casting his net wider than merely recounting anecdotes relating to hip hop's 'founding fathers' Chang illuminates the subject matter by looking deeper at the topic, unearthing insights such as; 'if blues culture had developed under the conditions of oppressive, forced labour, hip hop culture would arise from the conditions of no work.' So far, so well written. The further the book progresses however, a book about hip hop with the political context from which it emerged in the background becomes a book about the politics of multi-culturalism and race relations in America in the 1980s/90s with hip hop in the background. One learns much about Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan but little about Run DMC and Tupac Shakur. Anyone who bought this book due to an interest in learning more about hip hop as I did will no doubt feel short-changed as a result.
The underlying problem with the book is focus. What is the book about? a history of the 'hip hop generation'? What does that term even mean? Nowhere is it defined and therein lies the problem. In truth it is a meaningless term but one vague enough to serve as a broad canvas to enable Chang to use 'hip hop' as cipher for a discussion concerning the politics of race relations and multi-culturalism in the post-civil rights era in the U.S. Chang is apparently due to develop this theme further in his forthcoming book 'Who we be: the colorisation of America.' Perhaps Chang should have stuck to that with this book, instead he tries to straddle two horses and falls off both.
On a side note, some commentators have been guilty of sidelining the Puerto-Rican origins of certain aspects, and the multitude of cultures that have helped to form the music and aesthetics of hip-hop, but Chang is objective and presents a reasonably balanced view as far as I can tell. This can only be a good thing for the continued growth and evolution of the style.
This means that it only sporadically delves into Hip-Hop music, b-boying, and graffiti (the elements of Hip-Hop culture). Chang is more interested in the generation of people who have grown up with Hip-Hop and he focuses on race, multiculturalism, the socio-economic background, and politics.
This makes it a tough book to review - taken on its own merits, it's extremely well done, but it comes off as disappointing to anyone who wanted a definitive history of Hip-Hop as a culture or music genre. As the book progresses, Chang's personal preferences for what he thinks should be the main points covered increasingly put Hip-Hop into the background, with politics, multiculturalism, and race taking center stage.
The book "Yes, Yes, Y'all" is the superior history to me, because although it doesn't cover as many years as "Can't Stop...", it successfully captures the voices of the people who were present in the creation of Hip-Hop, and it doesn't try to put a racial or political spin on everything that is said or done (it is entirely in the words of the pioneers).
So to sum up - "Can't Stop Won't Stop" is good if you're interested in multiculturalism, politics, and socio-economics, but not so great if you're a Hip-Hop fan.
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