Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang
What could I say about this book that hasn’t already been said? Since its publication in 2005 this book has received numerous accolades but that isn’t what got my attention. When I search for books to review I search for a certain type of book which you will begin to see in the reviews forthcoming. It’s all about the subject matter and in this case I was looking for a history reference and this is definitely it.
It begins with an introduction written by DJ Kool Herc himself. He discusses his beginning interests in DJing and the culture’s growth and development. The author also pens his thoughts in a prelude as a precursor to the rest of the literature. I enjoy creativity and nuances so titling the time frames ‘loops’ was pretty cool. I am always one for great photographs and references which this book has a lot of. The cover is all Hip Hop with a B-boy in his B-boy stance dawning a shirt reading the title. Somewhere in somebody’s project with people living in that concrete jungle. The ‘singed’ or ‘aged’ edges designed within the cover artwork makes the book that more authentic.
There’s no real spoiler alert if you know the history of the culture but the book begins in the Bronx, of course, and regales the story of the how the Bronx became what we know as the Bronx today. Gentrification is something that we still see today as society continues to remind Black-Americans that they are not equal. The author then takes us to Jamaica where politics were shady business as usual with drugs and money at the core. It sheds light on Bob Marley and his wife Rita Marley’s contribution to civil rights in Jamaica and how the U.S. became involved. There are two story lines that later connect which becomes the creation of Hip Hop Culture.
We are then introduced to the great Afrika Bambaataa and how the Zulu Nation came about. All the elements are incorporated as it was about the culture before the mainstream had figured out how to cash in. The book creates an atmosphere that really pulls you in and makes you feel like you are back in the seventies as Hip Hop Culture is being realized and understood. The reading gives an overall look at what was going on the nation over with Reaganomics deeply effecting Black-Americans. The book builds up and the post-Civil Rights era brings the decline of Black-American Culture and Hip Hop Culture. In my short thoughts we got lazy and apathetic. Then we get to the pivotal moment where we as a people could either take back our culture or let it be reconfigured and erased like the ancient Greeks did in Africa. It’s no surprise that the higher ups traded our culture for their own personal gain and Hip Hop becomes overtly materialistic and misogynistic. This book is basically a timeline of the evolution of Hip Hop Culture. As a member of the cohort born between 1965 and 1984 this book is a record of the times in which I was raised. Even though I didn’t live in New York that does not mean that Hip Hop Culture wasn’t already happening elsewhere.
The book ends at the beginning of what I would call the Lost Years of Hip Hop as the culture had lost its way in capitalism. This book is very nostalgic and makes you yearn for the days of old. I tip my hat to Jeff Chang as I’m sure there was more than a great deal of time, energy, research, and verification that contributed to this work. This book is unquestionably is a great addition to any avid reader or Hip Hop head’s collection. As an educator I would use this book in a history or a social studies class using excerpts from the book as a reference. You could compare the past economic conditions to those of current and the same with the politics discussed in the literature. Please add this to your list of reading materials and as always include your children.