Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation by Jeff Chang
I have to thank a guy on OK Cupid for this one. No, I never went on a single date with the guy, but he recommended this hip hop history to me when I told him that I was looking for a books about hip hop and the LA riots. Well done, I don’t remember your name dude. Well done, indeed.
This book details the history of hip hop, from the burning of the Bronx in the 1970’s through the demise of local radio in the early 00’s. Chang put in a ton of research and delves into all aspects of the culture – economic, sociological, racial, political and musical. There are full explanations of the three branches of hip hop culture – music, break dancing and graffiti. Honestly, to get the full effect of this book, it may be good to have a computer nearby. I found myself constantly googling songs, grafitti artists and dancers. Some portions of the book move slowly, but others are fascinating. Also, there were some pretty odd omissions. No words about the East Coast/West Coast Tupac/Biggie thing? What about almost everything that happened post 1992? Rap in other cities besides NYC and LA? International? Still, this is a fantastic place to start.
While I may have learned a lot about the music, I feel that I learned even more about the tensions of urban centers, especially New York and South Central LA, from the 1970’s through the 1990’s.
As I mentioned earlier, I am still looking for an in depth book about the 1992 LA Riots, but this was a great primer. The Rodney King trial and the riots are one of the first big news stories that I remember (I would’ve been almost 7 and living a few hours from LA, so footage was on TV ALL THE TIME, but I was way too young to really get it), but I never understood the real ins and outs of the conflict. I became interested in it last April, when LA marked the ten year anniversary of the event, by showing some devastating footage on TV. Although it was a disaster without a clear explanation, at least now I have a basic feeling for the tinderbox that was South Central…and it’s scary to think how easily it could happen again.
So, to my fellow casual hip hop fans — read this if you’ve decided that you really do want to know more. Or if you just want to be inspired to listen to some Kurtis Blow and Run DMC. This book works for that too.
“And the IRS said they want to chat. But you can’t explain why you claimed your cat.”