Chris's Reviews > Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation

Can't Stop Won't Stop by Jeff Chang
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Oct 27, 09

really liked it
Read in October, 2009

Jeff Chang's mostly exhaustive history of hip hop is subtitled A History of the Hip Hop Generation for a reason, it's not The History. His research is impeccable and he shows a direct cause and effect for what lead to what (the Reagan administration's failure to do anything about apartheid in South Africa begat Public Enemy, racism in the LAPD begat NWA). He writes like a thorough sociologist, identifying social ills and connecting the music that came after it. Chang is especially critical of the (white) people who misinterpret hip hop (Bill Clinton taking Sistah Souljah's comments about killing white people out of context; everyone else overreacting to Ice T's "Cop Killer" song).

Chang writes persuasively, so it's easy to find yourself agreeing with him when he mostly let's Public Enemy off the hook for Professor Griff's anti-Semitism (but little is mentioned of his homophobia) - although you really shouldn't. The omissions are interesting to consider. I would have liked to have read more on Outkast and Nas, sure, but the scant attention paid to Tupac Shakur and Notorious BIG (and their very high-profile deaths) is puzzling, to say the least. Chang also has no time for London's once blossoming "grime" scene that produced The Streets, Dizzee Rascal and Lady Sovereign and the women in mainstream hip hop are barely given a paragraph.

Chang did write in the beginning that the hip hop generation had a lot of political power if they knew how to channel it. After the book was published, that generation was instrumental in electing a president of the United States who is a Jay-Z fan.
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