Jeff Chang tells the story of hip-hop culture

I’ve broadened my horizons lately. Or not really actually. Hip-hop is sprung from reggae and the two music genres have much in common these days, particularly the dancehall coming from Jamaica.

Released in 2005 to wide critical acclaim Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, take a close look on hip-hop. But it’s not really about the music. This book is rather about the culture and politics behind hip-hop and its four elements – Djing, rapping, graffiti and breakdancing. And author Jeff Chang puts the entire genre into a context of American, Afro-American and Jamaican society.

In its 544 pages, Jeff Chang describes the people, events, ideas and movements that shaped hip-hop, ranging from the 60’s up until the late 90’s. Apart from his massive research, Jeff Chang has also interviewed several important persons behind hip-hop culture, for instance Chuck D of Public Enemy, Africa Bambaataa and DJ Kool Herc.

The only artists that get a thorough description are Public Enemy and NWA, particularly Ice Cube. The former group represents east coast and the latter west cost. The majority of the book is rather about topics such as American politics in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, police brutality and gang culture.

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop is a certainly a brilliant story of an underground movement which has found a worldwide audience with successful artists such as Jay-Z, who has made $63 over the past 12 months. It’s interesting to know that this movement started in Jamaica in the 60’s and got a wider recognition in the ghettos of 70’s New York.

I learned a lot reading this book. But I don’t know if I know more about the music itself. I’m most definitely more experienced in American culture and society.

If you’re interested in the music, buy yourself a copy of Check the Technique – Liner Notes For Hip-Hop Junkies instead. If you’ve read Jeff Chang’s book and want more, check the literature list at a university course in political science or sociology.


Filed under Reviews

6 responses to “Jeff Chang tells the story of hip-hop culture

  1. Great book. I read it when it was released. Chang used to run (still does?) a brilliant msuic blog – but the name escapes me at the moment. I did a search for but I can’t find it.

  2. JamesM

    If you want a book more about the music, get the book “How to Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC”

    It’s got interviews with over 100 of the most notable MCs, and really goes in depth… there is also some dope stuff about how people like Das EFX and KRS use rhythms from the Jamaican forms of MCing – dope read

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