Feature Article

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

A look at the ground breaking book by acclaimed Hip Hop author Jeff Chang

Published By: St. Martin's Press

By Jon Minners

Let the Links Guide You:   A History of the Hip Hop Generation      Can't Stop, Won't Stop: The Website 


Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation     They said it wouldnít last, but the critics were proven wrong.  Hip Hop is now the number one form of music in America, dominating the Billboard charts like no other brand of music has done in recent years.  It may have changed a lot since the days of DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash, but Hip Hop is stronger than it ever was and the juggernaut machine that has taken over radios, the internet, styles of dress, our way of dance and our entire culture, doesnít seem to be ending any time soon. 

    To understand its success story today and itsí continued success in the future, we must understand the past.  P. Diddy made the kids from Making the Band II memorize Biggie's Juicy and read Russell Simmonsí autobiography, but he would have taken a different approach today and made Babs, Dylan, Ness and Chopper read Canít Stop, Wonít Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation.  Thatís just how important this latest venture into the world of Hip Hopís history means to the cultureís past, present and future. 

    Written by veteran Hip Hop journalist and activist, Jeff Chang, Canít Stop, Wonít Stop is a groundbreaking experience, a result of 10 years of research and 30+ years of history that doesnít just look at the music, graffiti, dance and clothes; the four elements of Hip Hop, but the sociological and political landscape that led to young Black men and women emerging from the rubble of the South Bronx to create what no one could believe would be the multi-million dollar industry it has become today. 

    The size and scope of the book may be daunting to the reader, looking more in tune with the bible at 450+ pages, but fans, historians and all other interested parties will find one of the most thorough, yet reader-friendly, analysis of Hip Hop ever read.  Once a reader gets started, this book will be almost impossible to put down with each chapter focusing on a different, yet equally poignant moment of Hip Hop history.  From the creation of highways that led to the White flight of the South Bronx and the emergence of street gangs and social unrest to the newfound focus by men and women of color to stop the violence, start having fun and raise awareness to the issues affecting them, from the rise of Reggae in Kingston, Jamaica to the rise of Hip Hop in New York and then the rise of Gangsta Rap in Los Angeles; from the Hip Hop activism over Apartheid in South Africa to the role Hip Hop activism plays in the world today; from the past to the present, to the future, Canít Stop, Wonít Stop lets it all hang out.  The book fills in the gaps of Hip Hop history with real stories from the people behind the scenes, all while never claiming to be the end-all, just a story that can be reinterpreted by so many other pioneers who lived the life. 

    The drawbacks in the book, if you can call them drawbacks, come in the form of missing moments in history; moments that changed the game.  The impact of Tupac Shakur and Notorious BIG or the rise of Eminem is not even discussed in the book.  Their omission almost sticks out like a sore thumb, considering how important all three men are to the culture, but at the same time, their omission is almost a blessing in disguise.  Their commandeering presence has overshadowed Hip Hop for so long; it is almost refreshing not to have the focus of the book not shift to them for once, since for the most part, their rolls have already played out in the mainstream media.  This book serves a better purpose focusing on the people and issues many readers may be unfamiliar with. 

    Readers will be enlightened by the issues affecting America that served to foreshadow Hip Hopís rise and almost how those issues parallel the rise of Reggae in Jamaica.  Like it or not, Hip Hop could be traced back to Reggae roots and not vice versa as many radio stations would like listeners to believe.  Readers will also discover how graffiti saved many neighborhoods in the Bronx by bringing a focus back to the blighted communities that governments decided they would finally save only when taggers started making a name for themselves with their unique brand of art.  The issues behind Hip Hop finally making its appearance on vinyl and what people really thought of the Sugarhill Gangís form of rapping, which essentially shortened the MC cipher to fit on to mainstream friendly records, are discussed here.  Readers will also view the rise and fall of Public Enemy and NWA, issues of Apartheid, the riots from the Rodney King verdict, the tensions between Koreans and Blacks in Los Angeles and the continuous struggles Hip Hop faces against politicians who have an unnerving need to squash the unique voice of an equally unique generation. 

    Probably the most interesting stories include the rise of Source Magazine and the controversies surrounding Ray Benzino, which has been aired out by Eminem in their battles.  In addition, the book focuses on the changing face of radio that has shut down smaller stations, which had give smaller acts a voice, and has focused on Clear Channel cookie-cutter stations with smaller play lists that limit the Hip Hop scope to the booty shaking, cash money, pimped out sex songs saturating the market as of late.  There is almost no topic left untouched. 

    This is a must read and will hopefully, like the industry it covers, not stop, continuing with new editions and stories to keep readers enlightened for years to come.  This is a book that would be required reading for any music major.  In fact, Canít Stop, Wonít Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation is in a class all by itself. 


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