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Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation


Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation Cover

ISBN13: 9780312425791
ISBN10: 0312425791
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Generations are fictions.

The act of determining a group of people by imposing a beginning and ending date around them is a way to impose a narrative. They are interesting and necessary fictions because they allow claims to be staked around ideas. But generations are fictions nonetheless, often created simply to suit the needs of demographers, journalists, futurists, and marketers.

In 1990, Neil Howe and William Strauss both baby boomers and self-described social forecasters set forth 'a neatly parsed theory of American generations in their book, Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069. They named their own generation "Prophets," idealists who came of age during a period of "Awakening," and their children's generation "Heroes," who, nurtured by their spiritually attuned parents, would restore America to a "High" era. In between were "Nomads" inhabiting a present they described as an "Unraveling." What Howe and Strauss's self flattering theory lacked in explanatory power, it made up for with the luck of good timing. The release of Generations intersected with the media's discovery of "Generation X," a name taken from the title of a book by Douglas Coupland that seemed to sum up for boomers the mystery of the emerging cohort.

Howe and Strauss's book was pitched as a peek into the future. Cycles of history, they argued, proceed from generational cycles, giving them the power to prophesize the future. Certainly history loops. But generations are fictions used in larger struggles over power.

There is nothing more ancient than telling stories about generational difference. A generation is usually named and framed first by the one immediately preceding it. The story is written in the words of shock and outrage that accompany two revelations: "Whoa, I'm getting old," and, "Damn, who are these kids?"

Boomers seem to have had great difficulty imagining what could come after themselves. It was a boomer who invented that unfortunate formulation: "the end of history." By comparison, everything that came after would appear as a decline, a simplification, a corruption.

Up until recently, our generation has mainly been defined by the prefix "post ." We have been post civil rights, postmodern, poststructural, postfeminist, postBlack, post soul. We're the poster children of "post," the leftovers in the dirty kitchen of yesterday's feast. We have been the Baby Boom Echo. (Is Baby Boom Narcissus in the house?) We have been Generation X. Now they even talk about Generation Y. And why? Probably because Y comes after X.

And so, by the mid 1990s, many young writers sick of what Howe and Strauss and their peers had wrought took to calling themselves "the Hip Hop Generation." In 2002, in an important book, The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and The Crisis in African American Culture, Bakari Kitwana forged a narrow definition African Americans born between 1965 and 1984 a period bracketed by the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the assassination of Malcolm X on one end and hip hop's global takeover during the peak of the Reagan/Bush era at the other.

Kitwana grappled with the implications of the gap between Blacks who came of age during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements and those who came of age with hip hop. His point was simple: a community cannot have a useful discussion about racial progress without first taking account of the facts of change.

Folks got bogged down once again in the details. How could one accept a definition of a Hip Hop Generation which excluded the culture's pioneers, like Kool Herc and Afrika Bombaataa, for being born too early? Or one that excluded those who had come to claim and transform hip hop culture, but were not Black or born in America? Exactly when a Hip Hop Generation began and whom it includes remains, quite appropriately, a contested question.

My own feeling is that the idea of the Hip Hop Generation brings together time and race, place and polyculturalism, hot beats and hybridity. It describes the turn from politics to culture, the process of entropy and reconstruction. It captures the collective hopes and nightmares, ambitions and failures of those who would otherwise be described as "post this" or "post that."

So, you ask, when does the Hip Hop Generation begin? After DJ Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa. Whom does it include? Anyone who is down. When does it end? When the next generation tells us it's over.

This is a nonfiction history of a fiction a history, some mystery and certainly no prophecy. It's but one version, this dub history a gift from those who have illuminated and inspired, all defects of which are my own.

There are many more versions to be heard. May they all be.

Jeff Chang

Brooklyn and Berkeley

January 1998 to March 2004

Copyright 2005 by Jeff Chang

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JGMD, April 4, 2006 (view all comments by JGMD)
Best book I read all of last year! I was sad to miss Chang when he visited Powell's last week, wishing I could have gave him props for his efforts. The way he chronicles the history of major players in the hip hop industry (sadly this is what it has become to some) while weaving stories of significant cultural impact didn't allow me to put it down. It also provides both aficionados of the genre and beginners alike with some great artists to explore if you haven't heard already. Your brain will be poppin' and lockin' to the tune of Chang's masterpiece.
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Product Details

The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed
Chang, Jeff
Introduction by:
Herc, D. J. Kool
Herc, D. J. Kool
Herc, D. J. Kool
Serrano, Shea
Torres, Arturo
Abrams Image
Rap (music)
History & Criticism - General
Popular Culture - General
Genres & Styles - Rap & Hip Hop
Music -- Social aspects.
Rap (Music) -- History and criticism.
Music-Hip Hop and Rap
Social history
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
100 color illustrations
9 x 7.5 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Music » General
Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Rap and Hip-Hop
Arts and Entertainment » Music » History and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Sale Books
History and Social Science » Sociology » General

Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation Sale Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.98 In Stock
Product details 240 pages Picador USA - English 9780312425791 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

"Here's a little story that must be told..."

Jeff Chang, hip-hop journalist (URB, Village Voice, Spin, the Nation, San Francisco Chronicle), has penned an award-winning (2005 American Book Award) account of the origins of hip-hop. From Jamaica and the South Bronx in the late 1970's to the streets of Philadelphia during the 2000 Republican National Convention, Chang traces hip-hop's rise from the fledgling culture of a few dozen New York City teenagers to a truly massive global movement.

One time disc jockey (DJ Zen) and co-founder of the successful Solesides/Quannum Projects label, Chang possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of the hip-hop world and uses the social and political upheavals of the past 25 years to illustrate the medium's ascent to a multi-billion dollar industry.

Chang's effort is a comprehensive book detailing the individuals and the events that have made hip-hop what it is today. From Wild Style to Beat Street, the L.A. riots to Howard Beach, Grand Wizzard Theodore to Mos Def, b-boys to graf writers, Spike Lee to Jean-Michel Basquiat, the connections of a culture now found worldwide are explored in exquisite detail and depth.

What will perhaps one day be seen as the seminal text of hip-hop history, Can't Stop Won't Stop is a brilliant and engaging expose of an often misunderstood art.

"Review" by , "The most important new genre of the last quarter-century finally has a sweeping historical overview as powerful as the music with Can't Stop Won't Stop...the best-argued, most thoroughly researched case for hip-hop as a complete and truly American culture."
"Review" by , "The birth of hip-hop out of the ruin of the South Bronx is a story that has been told many times, but never with the cinematic scope and the analytic force that Chang brings to it....This is one of the most urgent and passionate histories of popular music ever written."
"Review" by , "Jeff Chang's new and necessary book...delivers a vivid account of the last third of the American twentieth century....The book is as much a cultural history as a music history."
"Review" by , "This is a book that should be on the shelves of every high school and college library, an engaging and entertaining full-blown excursion into American inner-city culture's rapid proliferation into every nook and cranny of culture at large."
"Review" by , "The conclusion the book draws is its real strength-hip-hop is the culture of youth, and teens today have never known a world without it."
"Synopsis" by , Based on original interviews with DJs, rappers, graffiti writers, activists, and gang members, this work chronicles the events, the ideas, the music, and the art that marked the hip-hop generation's rise from the ashes of the 1960s into the new millennium.
"Synopsis" by ,
The Rap Year Book takes readers on a journey that begins in 1979, widely regarded as the moment rap became recognized as part of the cultural and musical landscape, and comes right up to the present. Shea Serrano deftly pays homage to the most important song of each year. Serrano also examines the most important moments that surround the history and culture of rap musicandmdash;from artistsandrsquo; backgrounds to issues of race, the rise of hip-hop, and the struggles among its major playersandmdash;both personal and professional. Covering East Coast and West Coast, famous rapper feuds, chart toppers, and show stoppers, The Rap Year Book is an in-depth look at the most influential genre of music to come out of the last generation.and#160;


Complete with infographics, lyric maps, hilarious and informative footnotes, portraits of the artists, and short essays by other prominent music writers, The Rap Year Book is both a narrative and illustrated guide to the most iconic and influential rap songs ever created.and#160;

"Synopsis" by ,
Forged in the fires of the Bronx and Kingston, Jamaica, hip-hop has been a generation-defining global movement. In a post-civil rights era rapidly transformed by deindustrialization and globalization, hip-hop gave voiceless youths a chance to address these seismic changes, and became a job-making engine and the Esperanto of youth rebellion. Hip-hop crystallized a multiracial generation's worldview, and forever transformed politics and culture. But the epic story of how that happened has never been fully told . . . until now.
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