Top critical review
11 people found this helpful
Dont believe the hype
on 16 March 2014
'Cant stop wont stop' starts well in its descriptions of the emergence of what Chang describes as 'the four main elements of hip hop' - new styles of art (graffitti,) dance (break,) and music (forms of DJing and MCing) which fermented in the south bronx in the post-civil rights era amidst a brew of black nationalism, pan afro-centrism, political/institutionalised neglect, post-industrialisation, drugs, unemployment and gang warfare to produce a distinctly original and compelling new art-form - but loses its way considerably half way through the book when the story changes from hip hop as underground sub-culture to mainstream dominance.
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.